Russian troops 'using dishwashers and fridges parts to repair failing equipment'
Russian troops are being forced to use computer chips from dishwashers and refrigerators in military equipment like tanks due to sanctions, US officials have claimed.
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo spoke at a Senate hearing on Wednesday and told of reports from Ukrainians, who when they discovered Russian military equipment on the ground, found it was filled with semiconductors that had been taken out of dishwashers and refrigerators.
U.S. technology exports to Russia had fallen by nearly 70 per cent since sanctions began in late February, said Raimondo, whose department oversees the export controls that form a big part of the sanctions package.
She said three dozen other countries had adopted similar export bans, which also applied to Belarus.
In response to a question from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., about the impact of the export controls, she said: “Our approach was to deny Russia technology - technology that would cripple their ability to continue a military operation.
“And that is exactly what we are doing.”
Semiconductors, which were also known as computer chips, were the brains that operated most modern electronics - from appliances to fighter jets.
Russia historically relies on imports from Asian and Western companies, and manufacturers few of its own.
Ukrainian officials who told the secretary of how when they had opened up captured Russian tanks, they had found parts from refrigerators and commercial and industrial machinery.
The parts had appeared to be making up for other unavailable components, Commerce Department spokeswoman Robyn Patterson said.
The number of U.S. shipments to Russia of items which were subject to the new rules, such as semiconductors, telecommunications equipment, lasers, avionics and maritime technology, had decreased 85 per cent.
Patterson said their value had decreased 97 per cent when compared to the same time period in 2021.
Raimondo went on in the senate to point to recent reports of two Russian tank manufacturers having had to idle production, due to a lack of components.
These reports had also been previously highlighted by The White House, which said that Uralvagonzavod Corporation and Chelyabinsk Tractor Plant have halted production.
The world’s biggest computer chip companies started to cut off deliveries to Russia after the US-led restrictions kicked in, in late February.
Russia had already faced restricted sales from the US and other Western nations, of chips and other electronic components specifically designed for military use.
This kind of sale required a government license to proceed, even before Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine.
These restrictions were further tightened by the new rules, which also saw the blocking of the sale of most dual-use chips, which have both military and commercial applications, to nonmilitary users in Russia.
This included those in high-tech industries.
According to the Biden administration, the ban would cut off more than half of Russia’s high-tech imports and kneecap the country’s ability to diversify its economy and support its military.
The US is also requiring companies worldwide to abide by the rules and block such sales to Russia if they use U.S. manufacturing equipment or software to produce chips - a novel move that the US has only used once before, against China’s Huawei.
A majority of chip factories around the world use software or equipment designed in the United States, analysts say.
Russia’s military has long relied on western electronics, previous research has shown.
Investigators from the London-based Conflict Armament Research (CAR) group, who dissected military drones shot down over Ukraine in recent years, found they were full of Western electronics and components.