US charges seven with military technology plot on Russian orders

US Department of Justice logo Image source, US Department of Justice

The US has charged five Russians and two Americans with conspiracy related to procurement and money laundering on behalf of the government in Moscow.

The justice department said they were suspected of trying to obtain military-grade and dual-use technologies from US firms for Russia's defence sector.

They are also believed to have conspired to smuggle sniper ammunition in violation of US sanctions.

One of the Russians is thought to be a Federal Security Service (FSB) officer.

The suspects and the Russian government have so far made no comment on the investigation. Three of the group are in custody; four of the Russians are still at large.

In a statement, the US Department of Justice said a 16-count indictment was unsealed on Tuesday in Brooklyn Federal Court in New York City.

According to the document, the defendants unlawfully purchased and exported highly sensitive and heavily regulated electronic components, some of which can be used in the development of nuclear and hypersonic weapons, quantum computing and other military applications.

US Attorney General Merrick Garland said that his department and America's international partners "will not tolerate criminal schemes to bolster the Russian military's war efforts". This was a reference to the full-scale invasion of Ukraine launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin on 24 February.

"With three of the defendants now in custody, we have disrupted the procurement network allegedly used by the defendants and Russian intelligence services to smuggle sniper rifle ammunition and sensitive electronic components into Russia," Mr Garland said.

The indictment named all five defendants, including the suspected FSB officer, Vadim Konoshchenok, aged 48. He is under arrest in Estonia, facing US extradition proceedings.

It alleged that Mr Konoshchenok, from St Petersburg in Russia, "would ship or physically smuggle US-origin items from Estonia to Russia, including dual-use electronics, military-grade tactical ammunition and other export-controlled items".

If convicted, the defendants face up to 30 years in prison. The others were named as: Russians Yevgeniy Grinin, Aleksey Ippolitov, Boris Livshits and Svetlana Skvortsova, and two Americans - Alexey Brayman and Vadim Yermolenko.