Kazakhstan helps Russia evade international sanctions by acting as an intermediary in the supply of chips and drones. This is stated in the joint investigation of Important Stories, OCCRP and Der Spiegel.
Since the beginning of a full-scale war in Ukraine, the import of microelectronics to Kazakhstan has more than doubled. If in 2021 the amount of supplies of integrated circuits amounted to $35 million, then in 2022 it exceeded $75 million. Such data are provided by the Bureau of National Statistics of Kazakhstan. It is noteworthy that until 2021, the amount of imports was also about half as much. The export of chips from Kazakhstan showed an even more noticeable growth: $245,000 in 2021 against $18 million in 2022. And if chips are at least mentioned in the import and export reports for 2021, then drones appeared in them only in 2022. So, over the past year, Kazakhstan imported drones for $5 million, and exported to Russia for $1.23 million.
As Important Stories found out, more than 500 drones were sent to Russia in 2022 by the Kazakh company Aspan Arba, registered two months after the start of a full-scale war. The Metalmininginfo portal reported that she would be the official dealer of drones from the Chinese company DJI in Kazakhstan. It was stated that DJI will supply copters for the agricultural industry, construction, electric power, search and rescue, and mining. In total, Aspan Arba received a license to purchase 18,000 drones for a total of $45 million.
From the Russian side, drones from Aspan Arba are purchased by the Celestial Mechanics company. Its owner is Ilya Golberg. The same name is the founder of "Aspan arba". The director of the Kazakh company, Mikhail Sapozhnikov, was also previously a co-owner of Celestial Mechanics, together with Golberg. The phones listed on the Aspan Arba website appear as the phones of an employee of Celestial Mechanics in the databases of the merged numbers of CDEK customers.
Celestial Mechanics is the largest supplier of drones for the Russian military-industrial complex. In 2022 and the beginning of 2023, its largest buyer was the DJAi Arts Moscow company, which received almost 500 million rubles worth of goods. The company sells drones on Ozon, where the Russian military regularly buys. Also among the buyers of "DJ ars" are the Kamchatka Regional Council of War and Labor Veterans, the Moscow Regional Federation of Veterans of Armed Conflicts "Lynx", the fund "Future of Kamchatka" and "People's Front. Everything for victory”, openly helping the Russian military in Ukraine.
The largest Russian buyer of microchips from Kazakhstan is Stack, registered in an apartment in Moscow. In 2022-2023, it imported $4.2 million worth of components from Kazakhstan. The countries of their origin are indicated in the customs data: Hong Kong, Germany, the Netherlands and Singapore. Stack is a supplier of the Moscow Searchlight Plant and MPEI Design Bureau. The latter develops radio engineering systems as part of Roskosmos. In 2022, Stack mainly shipped components to one company, Set-1. As stated on the website, she is engaged in the "development and production of special equipment for law enforcement agencies." Among the clients of Set-1 is the Russian Ministry of Defense. The company supplies him with the Sphere and Scarab robotic complexes. Also, the products of Set-1 were used by the Russian military in Syria, and now they are using it to clear mines in Ukraine. Last year, among the buyers of "Set-1" were the FSB, foreign intelligence and the "DNR".
Another Russian company purchasing microelectronics through Kazakhstan is called Prime-Eck. In 2022–2023, it imported $3.1 million worth of components into Russia. In 2022, the Penza production association Elektropribor became one of its main buyers. It is part of the Rostec Avtomatika concern and produces communications equipment for the Ministry of Defense. Among them is the P-240I complex, which is used by the Russian military in Ukraine for field communications.