Criminals use Estonia to smuggle military equipment from the US to Russia

Seven Russian men, living in the US, have been charged with smuggling American-made military-grade equipment into Russia, some of which was transported through Estonia.

One of the seven men charged, Alexey Brayman, a Russian living in New Hampshire, used his Merrimack home as a “transshipment point” to smuggle US-made military equipment into Russia, part of a coordinated effort to evade US export laws, federal prosecutors said on 13 December.

Brayman is accused of participating in an international scheme to transport US-made products to Russia through Estonia, Finland, Germany and Hong Kong, the Boston-based CBS affiliate, WBZ, reported.

According to the indictment, unsealed in the Eastern District of New York, since 2017 through at least the spring of 2022, Yevgeniy Grinin, Aleksey Ippolitov, Boris Livshits, Svetlana Skvortsova, Vadim Konoshchenok, Vadim Yermolenko and Brayman used shell companies, fake addresses and counterfeit shipping labels to transport the equipment to Russia.

Vadim Konoshchenok, defendant in Russian smuggling case. A US government exhibit.

A suspected Russian intelligence officer

The goods alleged to have been smuggled include “advanced electronics and sophisticated testing equipment” to be used in nuclear weapons development and other military and space-based military applications. Investigators say the items were repackaged and shipped from several “intermediate locations” once they reached Europe and Asia before they were ultimately sent to Russia.

According to WBZ, Konoshchenok, a Russian national living in Estonia, was stopped by police at the Estonian-Russian border on 22 October, where law enforcement found 35 types of semiconductors, thousands of 6.5-millimetre bullets, made in Nebraska, and ammunition for sniper rifles.

6.5mm bullets made in Nebraska and found in the possession of Russian defendant Vadim Konoshchenok. A US government exhibit.

Konoshchenok, a suspected Russian intelligence officer, is accused of smuggling numerous US-made goods from Estonia to Russia, including dual-use electronics, military-grade tactical ammunition and other export-controlled items, the US Justice Department said, according to WBZ.

Konoshchenok was taken into custody by the Estonian authorities on 6 December at the request of the US and is now pending extradition. The other defendants remain at large.

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, the US has banned all military-related export to Russia.

Read also: Updates: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – reactions in Estonia.

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