A sign is seen at US Department of Justice Headquarters in Washington, DC, August 29, 2020.
Andrew Kelly | Reuters
WASHINGTON — Two American citizens and five Russian citizens have been indicted. sealed indictment The Justice Department said Tuesday it operates a sophisticated international smuggling network that has obtained classified US military technology and ammunition on behalf of the Kremlin.
The network is said to have been set up in 2017 to circumvent US sanctions and export controls in force at the time. Following the February invasion of Ukraine, the Biden administration imposed further sanctions on Russia.
In a statement, the DOJ said three of the seven defendants were in custody. Among them is Russian intelligence officer Vadim Konošchenok, who was arrested in Estonia last week at the request of the United States.
Two US citizens, Alexei Breiman and Vadim Yermolenko, were detained on Tuesday.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said, “With three of the defendants currently in custody, the defendants and Russian intelligence services allegedly used them to smuggle sniper rifle ammunition and sensitive electronic components into Russia. We cut off the procurement network,” he said.
The network was shut down by late November when Konošchenok was stopped at the Estonian-Russian border with “about 20 cases involving thousands of U.S.-made bullets, including tactical and .338 military sniper rounds,” the Justice Department said. believed to have been operated.
Cut off from U.S. and European military supplies, Russia is struggling to produce enough ammunition to equip its soldiers in eastern Ukraine.
Members of the so-called “Seruniya Network” have created dozens of front companies to disguise millions of dollars in military technology payments, according to a newly released indictment. Once the goods are purchased, they are said to have gone through multiple countries in Europe, Asia and North America before reaching their final destination, Russia.
A letter from prosecutors on Tuesday requesting bail standards for two US-based defendants underscored the gravity of the alleged crimes.
“The charges are extremely serious,” U.S. Attorney Breon Peace wrote. “The defendants are charged with participating in cross-border fraud, money laundering and sanctions evasion schemes controlled by foreign powers actively involved in armed conflict.”