US accuses Russian citizens of sending their country military equipment and Venezuelan oil


U.S. prosecutors on Wednesday charged five Russian nationals with sanctions evasion and other charges for shipping military technologies acquired from U.S. manufacturers to Russian buyers, some of which ended up on the battlefield in Ukraine.

Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn said electronic components purchased by Russian nationals Yury Orekhov and Svetlana Kuzurgasheva included semiconductors, radar and satellites. Some of the electronic devices obtained through the plot were found on Russian weapons platforms seized in Ukraine, prosecutors said.

They used a German company to ship the military technologies, as well as the petroleum Venezuelan, to Russian buyers, prosecutors said.

Orekhov was arrested in Germany on Monday. Another Russian national charged in the case, Artem Uss, was arrested in Italy and the United States is seeking his extradition, prosecutors said. Reuters was not immediately able to reach any of the defendants for comment.

“We will continue to investigate, disrupt and prosecute those who fuel Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine, evade sanctions, and perpetuate the underground economy of transnational money laundering,” Breon Peace, the top federal prosecutor in Brooklyn, said in a statement.

Also Wednesday, the Treasury Department sanctioned Orekhov and two companies he controls, Nord-Deutsche Industrieanlagenbau GmbH, also known as NDA, and Opus Energy Trading LLC.

The Treasury described Orekhov as a procurement agent and said some of the shipments of military goods and strategic dual-use technologies to Russian users violated U.S. export controls.

American-origin technologies can be used in fighter jets, ballistic and hypersonic missile systems, smart munitions and other military applications, the Treasury said.

The charges and sanctions come as Washington seeks to expand sanctions against Russia and crack down on evasion to pressure the Kremlin to halt its invasion of Ukraine.

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In a one-of-a-kind meeting last week with officials from 32 countries and the United States, Washington warned that it may impose sanctions on individuals, countries and companies that provide munitions to Russia or support its military-industrial complex.

“We know these efforts are having a direct effect on the battlefield, as Russia’s desperation has led them to turn to inferior suppliers and outdated equipment,” Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said in a statement.

Prosecutors said Orekhov and Uss own NDA and used it as a front to buy the technologies and ship them to Russian end users, including sanctioned companies controlled by Timofey Telegin and Sergey Tulyakov, two of the other Russian nationals charged Wednesday.

The defendants used shell companies and sent false information to U.S. banks, which processed transactions worth tens of millions of dollars in violation of sanctions, prosecutors said. The defendants also used cryptocurrencies for transactions and to launder the proceeds, prosecutors said.

Orekhov and Uss also used NDAs to ship millions of barrels of oil from Venezuela to buyers in Russia and China, working with two other defendants, Juan Fernando Serrano and Juan Carlos Soto, to negotiate the deals with Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA, on which the United States imposed sanctions in 2019.

Neither PDVSA nor Venezuela’s Information Ministry immediately responded to requests for comment.

Following the initial round of US sanctions on PDVSA, Russia’s Rosneft (MCX:ROSN) emerged as a key intermediary for Venezuelan crude. After Washington sanctioned Rosneft subsidiaries for their dealings with PDVSA, dozens of companies with no experience in oil trading have been brokering Venezuelan oil sales to Chinese buyers.

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A Reuters investigation found that many of them were registered as websites in Russia.

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