Agents have visited US tech companies and asked questions, sources tell The Washington Post
The FBI and the US Commerce Department have launched an investigation into allegations that US-made computer chips were found in Russian military equipment in Ukraine, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday.
Government agents have visited companies and asked how their chips and other components ended up in Russian radars, drones, tanks, ground control systems and other weapons systems, “people who know the subject” says the newspaper.
“Our goal is to try to trace back to the American supplier” and understand “how did he find his way into this weapon system,” said a Commerce Department official.
“Just because a chip, a company’s chip, is in a weapon system doesn’t mean we’ve opened an investigation into that company. What we have done, however, is we have opened an investigation into how that company’s chip got into that system,” explained the anonymous official.
A lawyer for one of the companies involved told the Washington Post that investigators are launching a “wide fillet” asking whether tech companies sold their products to a specific list of companies, including intermediaries who might have been involved in the supply chain.
After the launch of Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine, the United States and many of its allies banned the sale of computer chips to Russian defense companies and imposed restrictions on deliveries to other buyers in the country.
The move further tightened restrictions that were introduced in 2014, following Crimea’s reunification with Russia.
Prior to the conflict, basic chips could be sold to Russian buyers without restriction, while more sophisticated products required exporters to obtain a special license from the US government.
The federal investigation follows reports from NGOs and think tanks in the United States, United Kingdom and some other countries that Western-made computer chips, including American ones, had been discovered in Russian military equipment in Ukraine.
Last month, the Conflict Armament Research (CAR) group claimed that its investigators had found components from 70 American and European companies in Russian equipment. Some of the chips were made before 2014, but there were also apparently newer ones, dating as late as 2020.
According to a report by the Royal United Services Institute in April, products from companies including Intel, Analog Devices, Texas Instruments and Onsemi have been used by the armed forces of Russia and other countries.
Russia attacked Ukraine in late February, after kyiv’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Luhansk . The protocols negotiated by Germany and France were designed to give breakaway regions a special status within the Ukrainian state.
The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. kyiv insists the Russian offensive was unprovoked and has denied claims it planned to retake the two republics by force.
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