UK Hits Chinese Firms for ‘Propping up Russia’s War Machine’

The government said the three Hong Kong-registered firms have been listed for ’supplying sanctioned goods, critical for Russia’s war efforts.’
UK Hits Chinese Firms for ‘Propping up Russia’s War Machine’
A Ukrainian serviceman aims a machine gun as a drone flies during an anti-drone drill in Chernigiv region on Nov. 11, 2023. (Photo by Sergei Supinsky/AFP via Getty Images)
Lily Zhou

Chinese firms have been targeted for the first time in the UK’s fresh round of sanctions aimed at military suppliers that are “propping up Russia’s war machine.”

Three Hong Kong-registered firms, Asia Pacific Links Limited, Sinno Electronics Co., Limited, and Xinghua Co., Limited, are among the 46 individuals and entities sanctioned on Wednesday, for “supplying sanctioned goods, critical for Russia’s war efforts,” the government said.

Other targeted entities include businesses in Belarus, Serbia, Turkey, the UAE, and Uzbekistan.

It came as Foreign Secretary David Cameron travelled to the United States to reaffirm the allies’ relationship and their “unwavering support for Ukraine in its fight against Russian aggression.”

According to the U.S. Treasury Department, which sanctioned Sinno Electronics last year, the firm “maintained a continuing relationship with Radioavtomaika”—a U.S.-sanctioned Russian defence procurement firm that specializes in procuring foreign items for Russia’s defence industry and evading sanctions—before and after Russia’s further invasion of Ukraine.
A report published last year by British defence think tank Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) said the company’s website listed many components made by major Western manufacturers that are subject to export control under U.S. Bureau of Industry and Security rules.

One of the components, a microcontroller produced by STMicroelectronics, is  “the very same model” that was recovered from an drone used by the Russian Army in Ukraine, the report said.

The report said Sinno was exporting “large volumes of semiconductors and microelectronics to a wide variety of Russian companies” between 2017 and 2021, and that another Chinese company linked to Sinno “shipped over $3 million worth of goods to Russia” between April 2018 and June 2021, “more than seven times than that shipped to Russia by sister company Sinno Electronics in the same period.”

Another RUSI report detailed Asia Pacific Links and Xinghua’s Russian links.
According to the report, Xinghua, along with Sinno, were “primary suppliers” of SMT-iLogic, a U.S.-designated company that ships microelectronics to Russia. Two other companies, which the report said are owned by Xinghua’s owner, Yuan Jilun, have also been sanctioned by the United States.

The RUSI report said Asia Pacific Links was also among the companies that had been “shipping almost exclusively to SMT-iLogic” in the two years prior.

According to the Open Sanctions tracker, Asia Pacific Links is also sanctioned by Ukraine, Switzerland, and the United States.

Reacting to the UK’s designation of three Chinese firms, a spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in London said the UK’s action “constitutes violation of international law, abuse of unilateral sanctions, and damages the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies.”

The spokesperson called on the British government to “immediately rectify its wrongdoing” and revoke the sanctions, and threatened “firm and strong measures.”

Other entities sanctioned by the UK on Wednesday include Russian weapons manufacturers, defence importers, Wagner-linked groups, and entities that facilitated the trading of Russian oil, the government said.

Those involved in “Russia’s military-industrial complex” included 31 individuals and entities that are “ linked to designing and manufacturing drones and missile parts and importing and supplying key electronic components.”

Other third-country suppliers include Belarus’s JSC Display Design Bureau, Serbian company AVIO CHEM, Uzbek company MVIZION, and Turkish entity Smart Trading Limited.

RUSICH Military group, a private Russian company active in Ukraine and its commander are sanctioned over links with the Wagner mercenary group.

Four entities based in the UAE made the list for “using opaque corporate structures and deceptive shipping practices to facilitate unfettered trade in Russian oil, bearing down on Russia’s efforts to generate war revenues.”

Sanctions minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said the new sanctions will “hit Putin where it hurts, damaging Russian defence systems, and cracking down on illegal supply chains propping up Russia’s war machine.”

The Russian Embassy also claimed the sanctions are “illegitimate,” and labelled the move “futile” and an “act of poorly staged drama.”