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China has provided Russia with more than $12 million worth of drones since its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the New York Times reported on March 21.
According to the New York Times, around 70 Chinese exporters sold 26 brands of Chinese drones to Russia during the past year.
Autel, a Chinese drone manufacturer with branches in the United States, Germany, and Italy, was the second most popular brand sold. Overall sales have thus far totaled around $2 million, and the most recent shipment of Autel drones was in February 2023, the New York Times wrote.
Western countries have imposed sanctions on technology that can be used to Russia's advantage on the battlefield.
The European Council announced on Feb. 25 the 10th package of sanctions against Russia. The sanctions include "further export bans on critical technology and industrial goods, such as electronics, specialized vehicles, machine parts, spare parts for trucks and jet engines, as well as goods for the construction sector, which can be directed to Russia's military, such as antennas or cranes."
However, drone sales through unofficial channels and Russian-allied nations make the official sale figures much lower than the total number of technology sent to Russia.
“It poses an export control challenge: The same model can be used by real estate people to survey property and can be used in Ukraine for intelligence purposes,” William A. Reinsch, a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, told the New York Times.