Chinese Traders and Moroccan Ports: How Russia Flouts Global Tech Bans

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Shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine last year, engineers at Convex, a Russian telecommunications company, needed to find American equipment to transmit data to the country’s feared intelligence service. But no gear was flowing in after Western nations imposed sweeping new trade limits on Russia.

Convex’s employees soon found a solution.

While Cisco, a U.S. tech provider, had halted sales to Russia on March 3, 2022, Convex’s engineers easily obtained the Cisco gear they needed through an obscure Russian e-commerce site called Nag, which had gotten around international trade restrictions by buying the American equipment through a web of suppliers in China.

Convex engineers then visited the offices of Russia’s Federal Security Service, known as the F.S.B., in Yekaterinburg to install the gear that would help categorize and send data to the authorities. “Coordinate with the F.S.B. the placement of the Cisco Catalyst WS-C4948E switch,” a Convex engineer wrote on March 23, 2022, according to a company communications log obtained by The New York Times.

In the 22 months since the war in Ukraine began, Russia has largely continued getting the technology it needs to keep its economy running. After export restrictions and corporate bans initially led to trade disruptions, Russian suppliers found loopholes and cultivated workarounds. Almost no piece of commercial hardware — including basic telecom equipment, surveillance gear, microchips for advanced computing and weapons systems, and drones — has been too hard to get.

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Chinese Traders and Moroccan Ports: How Russia Flouts Global Tech Bans

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