30 Oct 2022 11:36 am
Bloomberg has learned of EU concerns about exports of washing machines, refrigerators, electric breast pumps and other household appliances to Russia. The EU believes that Russia could use some components of it “for military purposes”.
Russia’s neighboring countries have started importing washing machines, refrigerators, electric breast pumps and other household appliances in bulk from Europe, the newspaper reported Bloomberg. This has raised concern among European officials who believe Russia may use some of the components for “military purposes”.
The news agency cited data from the European Union’s statistical service (Eurostat) showing that Armenia imported more washing machines from the EU in the first eight months of 2022 than in the previous two years. Exports of electric breast pumps to the country in the first half of the year were three times higher than a year earlier, even though the birth rate in Armenia fell by 4.3 percent.
The same applies to Kazakhstan: demand for breast pumps from the EU increased by 633 percent in the first half of 2022, while the birth rate fell by 8.4 percent, writes Bloomberg. From January to August, refrigerators worth $21.4 million were shipped into the country – three times more than the same period last year.
Furthermore writes Bloombergthat data from the Kazakh government shows a sharp increase in the supply of household appliances to Russia: exports of breast pumps from Kazakhstan have more than doubled in the first eight months of the year compared to 2021, exports of refrigerators have increased tenfold. Since the beginning of this year, the country has shipped $7.5 million worth of washing machines to Russia. The Russian Federal Customs Service stopped publishing statistics on imports and exports in the spring.
The newspaper does not rule out that this is an attempt by Russia to deal with a shortage of imported household appliances. In addition, like this BloombergRussian companies could dismantle European equipment and use components and semiconductors in civilian production.
Already in the summer, the retail sector saw a decline in the supply of household appliances. After the start of the Russian military operation in Ukraine and the Western sanctions, a number of companies announced that they would stop their activities in Russia or withdraw altogether. According to the newspaper, the EU has restricted the supply of electronic household appliances worth more than EUR 750 and electronic equipment for video or sound recording worth more than EUR 1,000.
However, some European officials believe that some parts “could be used militarily”. Western officials had previously claimed that refrigerator and washing machine parts were found inside Russian tanks after hostilities began in Ukraine. European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen explained in September that the Russian military uses microchips from household appliances to repair military equipment. US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo made a similar claim in May.
According to James Byrne of the British think tank Royal United Services Institute, “Even sophisticated Russian weapon systems are often built using off-the-shelf microelectronic components found in a range of commercial products”.
European officials by Bloomberg respondents pointed out that household appliances are not covered by the sanctions, making it difficult to control their supply to Eurasian Economic Union countries. European Commission spokeswoman Miriam Garcia Ferrer claimed the EU was trying to monitor trade flows to see if sanctions imposed on Russia could be circumvented.
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