Last August, Oleg Patlya, a Russian national living near Miami, emailed a tempting offer to a Russian airline that was cut off from Western technology and materials.
Through a network of companies based in Florida, Turkey, and Russia, he shuffled the aircraft parts and electronics desperately needed by Russian Airlines to meet the global demands imposed on Russian Airlines after its invasion of Ukraine. possible sanctions avoidance.
“Considering the sanctions imposed on the Russian Federation, we have successfully resolved the issues at hand,” Patlya said, according to a criminal complaint filed in Arizona federal district court on Friday.
Mr. Patlya and his business partner were arrested on Thursday on charges of violating US export controls and international money laundering. The incident reveals a global network trying to help evade Russia. The most extensive technology control ever.
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the United States, in concert with nearly 40 other governments, has imposed sanctions on Russia, including weapons, computer chips, aircraft parts, Moscow access restrictions to other products included. Sanctions also apply to Russian airlines, including Aeroflot and its subsidiary Russian Airlines.
But thousands of shipments of aircraft parts were successfully sent to Russia last year, despite those broad sanctions, according to a trove of Russian customs data obtained by The New York Times.
Data collected and analyzed by imported geniusThe U.S.-based trade data aggregator has targeted tens of millions of Russian airlines facing apparent sanctions by the Biden administration, including Russian Airlines, Aeroflot, Ural Airlines, S7 Airlines, Yuair Aviation and Pobeda Airlines. It indicates that a dollar aircraft part was sent. .
Their shipment was made possible by the following methods: illegal network Like Mr. Patsulya, welled up They try to circumvent restrictions by shuffling goods through a series of straw buyers, often in the Middle East and Asia.
For example, last year dozens of copper wires, bolts, graphite and other parts marked as made in the USA by Boeing slipped into Aeroflot’s warehouse. They traversed obscure trading companies, free trade zones and industrial parks in the United Arab Emirates and China before entering Russia to help refurbish Aeroflot’s aging fleet.
The data records more than 5,000 individual shipments of aircraft parts to Russia over the eight months of 2022, ranging from simple screws to $290,000 worth of Honeywell-branded aircraft engine starters.
A total of $14.4 million in U.S.-made aircraft parts have been shown to have been sent to Russia over the past eight months, including those manufactured or trademarked by U.S. aircraft manufacturer Boeing and sold to Russia through third parties. It also includes $8.9 million in allegedly damaged parts.
Boeing said it was in full compliance with U.S. sanctions and would stop supplying parts, maintenance and technical support to Russian customers in early 2022. Aviation supply chain experts said the parts probably came from a variety of sources, including existing U.S. inventories abroad. Airlines, repair shops, or resellers who trade scrap parts.
Data showed that most of the goods were routed through countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, China and the Maldives. However, a small number of packages, including those destined for Russia, were sent directly from the United States or Europe.
Shipments also increased over the last year as Russia recruited global firms to help evade sanctions. This trend is due to the fact that “it took some time to establish a network to evade sanctions in the confusion immediately after the export restrictions, but now Russian airlines are able to procure some of the important parts.” , said William George, director of research at Import Genius.
The Russians detained on Thursday began planning to ship aircraft parts from the United States to Russia last May in violation of export controls, according to the criminal complaint.
The men have been accused of responding to requests from at least three Russian airlines for parts, including expensive brake systems for Boeing 737s, two of which received so-called temporary denials issued by the State Security Agency. The order strictly prohibited the purchase of American-made products. Department of Commerce. FBI agents raided a condominium owned by a male company at Trump Towers in Sunny Isles Beach, Fla., on Thursday.
Lawyers for the men did not respond to requests for comment.
Despite levels of sanctions evasion, air traffic to Russia remains significantly lower than before the war. U.S. officials said Russian airlines were forced to cannibalize their planes by dismantling them for spare parts to keep other airlines in operation. look to iran For maintenance and parts picking.
Russia’s imports of aircraft and aircraft parts fell from $3.45 billion a year before the invasion to just about $286 million after the invasion, according to the report. Economic Complexity Observatorya data visualization platform that explores the dynamics of global trade.
Since the invasion, China has been the largest exporter of aircraft, spacecraft and drone parts to Russia overall, accounting for about half of all exports, according to the Washington-based nonprofit Silverado Policy Accelerator. , followed by India.
The number of single-aisle aircraft in service in Russia fell by about 16% from summer 2021 to summer 2022 after the invasion, according to aviation data provider Cirium. The number of large twin-aisle aircraft, which are commonly used on international flights, has decreased by about 40%.
Aviation experts say it will be even more difficult for Russian airlines to continue operating planes without the support of Western suppliers and Boeing and Airbus. Manufacturers regularly consult with airlines to assess damage and tightly control access to technical documentation used by mechanics.
But for now, Russian airlines survive through the use of international transport and flights. hundreds of foreign jets People left behind after the war started.
According to the schedule published by Cirium, tens of thousands of flights are expected to cross Russia this month. More than 21,000 flights, more than half of which are operated by Russian carriers, are expected to carry passengers to and from Central Asian countries, as well as Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, China and Thailand. ing.
Six export-control lawyers and former government officials consulted by The New York Times said many of the shipments included in Import Genius’ data likely violated sanctions, but others such as Boeing and Airbus said the aircraft makers were not necessarily at fault. Aviation supply chains are complex and global, and parts can come from many different sources.
“There are clear violations,” said William Reinsch, a trade expert at the Institute for Strategic and International Studies, who oversaw export controls during the Clinton administration. “The guilty party is less clear.”
Aircraft parts originating in the European Union, including those manufactured or trademarked by Airbus, were also shipped to Russia last year, according to data.
Airbus spokesman Justin Dubon said the company tracks genuine parts and documentation provided to customers and conducts due diligence on all parties requesting spare parts. U.S. and European regulations mean “there is no legal way to get genuine aircraft parts, documents and services to Russian airlines,” he said.
U.S. regulations technically allow companies to apply for special permits to continue sending products to Russian airlines on the grounds of “flight safety,” but both Boeing and Airbus have said that He said he had not asked for or received any such permission. Additionally, Airbus said it is prohibited under EU law from shipping such goods to Russia, regardless of US licenses.
Current and former US officials have said some shipments to Russia are expected. Kevin Wolf, a partner at law firm Aiken Gump, who oversaw export controls during the Obama administration, said the controls “can’t stop everything,” but they still significantly reduce Russia’s capabilities. said there is.
He added that the scope of the new rules still goes beyond current tracking and enforcement methods in other allies. Until the invasion of Ukraine, trade in aircraft parts was largely unrestricted by the United States and other countries, with the exception of Iran, Cuba, North Korea and Syria.
“We’re improving, but we’re still far behind,” Wolff said.
The United States is unparalleled in its attempts to police commerce around the world compared to other countries that largely limit surveillance of their cross-border commodities.
Over the past three years, the United States has imposed new extraterritorial technology restrictions on Russia, China, and Iran. Products that are made in the United States or manufactured in a foreign country using US parts or technology are subject to US regulations even if they are made in the US. When you change hands on the other side of the world.
both usa and european union Increasing penalties for companies violating sanctions and staff dispatch It is trying to persuade countries like Kazakhstan to crack down on shipments to Russia through their territory. The U.S. government has nine export control officers stationed in Istanbul, Beijing and elsewhere to track shipments of sensitive products, and plans to open three more offices.
But supplying parts can be a lucrative business. James Disalvatore, associate director of data and analytics firm Karon, which monitors Russia’s efforts to evade sanctions, said the value of some aircraft parts imported by Russian airlines has more than quadrupled since the invasion. said to have risen.
“I don’t think it’s a secret what’s going on,” said Gary Stanley, a trade compliance expert who advises companies in aerospace and other industries. “How long have you been under Cuban sanctions? How long have you been under sanctions against North Korea? How long have you been under Iran sanctions?
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