In November 2023, Ukrainian hacktivists of the Cyber Resistance group handed over to InformNapalm volunteer intelligence community internal documentation of the sanctioned Russian Special Technological Center LLC (STC), known in particular for the production of the Russian Orlan-10 UAVs. The documents provided by the hacktivists for our analysis directly confirm that a network of front companies continues to import equipment and parts produced by European, American and Asian companies into Russia. These supplies are mission-critical for the Russian production of weapons and military equipment.
STC: ORLANS AND MORE
SPECIAL TECHNOLOGICAL CENTER (STC) [Rus.: ООО “СПЕЦИАЛЬНЫЙ ТЕХНОЛОГИЧЕСКИЙ ЦЕНТР”] is based in St. Petersburg, registered at 21 Gzhatskaya str., bldg. B, office 53.
This enterprise plays an important role in supporting the armed aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine. According to the official website of the National Agency on Corruption Prevention of Ukraine, sanctions have already been imposed on this organization by the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Switzerland, Japan, EU member countries and Ukraine.
Interestingly, one of the relatively new employees of STC is a Russian military hacker who is wanted by the FBI for interfering in the American elections. Lieutenant Colonel Sergey Morgachev, the focus of an earlier CYBINT study published by InformNapalm has been working there since September 2022.
In general, STC is producing a fairly wide range of telecommunications equipment.
They make no secret that they also make special military equipment, mentioning it on their own website. This fact is corroborated by both satellite images and data from the documentation obtained by the hacktivists.
For example, contracts for the supply of components directly contain the notice about STC taking part in the implementation of the state defense order. Accordingly, everything is financed by the aggressor state, so suppliers need to open separate bank accounts, as is usually the case with budget financing.
STC production facilities are located at: 150 Piskarevsky prospect, building 5, St. Petersburg, Russia. Satellite images show military vehicles in the parking lot of this building.
The photo which was obtained directly inside the premises shows that these vehicles are Russian electronic warfare systems RB-341V Leer-3. These systems were also repeatedly detected by InformNapalm in eastern Ukraine even before the full-scale invasion.
The Leer-3 system was developed and produced by STC, and it includes three Orlan-10 UAVs.
The company also owns a number of other premises. For example, warehouses at 17 Nepokorennykh Ave, St. Petersburg, Russia.
In the first year of a full-scale invasion, the Ukrainian youtubers mocked the “ingenuity” of Russian designers, when an autopsy of a downed Orlan-10 revealed that the UAV used a simple plastic bottle instead of a fuel tank, and the optics were Canon cameras. However, the damage done by these mass-produced UAVs in the frontline is no laughing matter.
It looks like Canon cameras were used on the Orlans before the full-scale invasion.
The hacktivists also retrieved photos from STC, documenting the process of returning Canon cameras with packaging damaged during delivery.
Despite the sanctions, STC continues and even ramps up production by obtaining components through front companies.
HOW SANCTIONS ARE BYPASSED
STC needs a lot of foreign-made components to run its production smoothly. Let’s look at one of its simplest products – a cargo hexacopter supplied to the 8th Field Army of the Russian Armed Forces.
The propellers and engines are produced by the Chinese company T-Motor. The flight controllers and GPS modules are produced by the Chinese Radiolink Electronic Limited. Laptops are from Lenovo and cameras are from Sony. Components and spare parts enter Russia without any difficulties. The Russians are focusing their procuring effort on Chinese products – there are fewer problems with them, especially given that China is quietly helping along in every possible way. However, the retrieved documents reflecting STC’s orders clearly show that the company also imports components, parts and equipment made in the USA, Germany, Spain, Austria, Great Britain, Switzerland, etc.
The supply scheme is “parallel imports”, a primitive but reliable way to circumvent sanctions much-loved by Russian. The chain looks like this:
- manufacturing company (in the USA, Asia, Europe);
- distributor (usually in the production country);
- intermediary front company (mainly companies from China, but we also saw companies from Turkey, UAE, Serbia, etc.);
- Russian supplier company;
- Russian military-industrial complex factory (in our case STC).
The analysis of the STC documents allowed us to track a number of Russian private legal entities that continued to import various equipment for the STC during 2022 and 2023.
In particular, these are:
RADIOLINE LLC [Rus.: ООО “РАДИОЛАЙН”] (OGRN 1117746143228, IPN 7718837905, KPP 772301001);
PROTECH LLC [Rus.: ООО “ПРОТЕХ”] (OGRN 1077761186381, IPN 7701748975, KPP 772801001);
PT Electronic [Rus.: ООО “ПТ Электроник”] (OGRN 1167847490524, IPN 7802606871, KPP 780201001);
and dozens of other companies.
Cyber Resistance group provided InformNapalm with copies of commercial proposals, contracts, annexes, invoices and waybills confirming the supply of equipment from the above-mentioned legal entities to STC. Payments were mainly made in US dollars and euros, with Chinese renminbi payments also becoming more frequent.
Here are examples of some retrieved documents.
A commercial offer from PT Electronic LLC, dated March 2023, containing equipment manufactured by Rohde & Schwarz GmbH. The German company specializes in the production of radio electronics and is headquartered in Munich, with divisions in the United States (DC, Howard County, Maryland) and Singapore.
Apparently, without these components (spectrum analyzers) it is impossible to assemble Leer-3. Therefore, Russians constantly purchase these items. However, the intermediary smuggler offers this product with up to 16 weeks of wait.
Naturally, a huge amount of equipment, electronics, and components are specifically ordered from Chinese producers (e.g. CEYEAR).
From the documentation received, it is obvious that the Russians are especially interested in CMOS sensors produced by the Chinese company GPIXEL.
According to the company’s website, “GMAX is Gpixel’s global shutter sensor family, designed to take full advantage of high-speed industrial camera interfaces while providing the performance and features required for imaging-as-measurement applications like factory inspection, automation, traffic monitoring and aerial mapping.” That is, these sensors are excellent for aerial photography and mapping from Orlans.
The Cyber Resistance group gained access to the email of a Gpixel representative in the Russian Federation and found there the correspondence with STC. The context of the letters suggests that Gpixel has official steady partners supplying Chinese components to the Russian military-industrial complex.
Interestingly, the data obtained by the hacktivists contains confidential technical certificates for these sensors. We invite everyone interested to look into these documents.
- GMAX4002_Pre_Datasheet_V0.3.2_20231109 [PDF]
Documents below show the entire chain for sourcing the foreign components through Radioline LLC – from contracting to the transfer of the products to the STC warehouses.
- Radioline contract No. 23.06.08-28 dated 06/08/2023 [PDF]
- Binding invoice No. 74 dated 09/05/2023 [PDF]
- UPD 49 [PDF]
Our HUMINT sources helped us to establish that Radioline is a long-term partner of STC supplying electronic components, measuring and laboratory equipment worth millions of dollars from various manufacturers, such as the American Keysight, the already mentioned German Rhode & Schwarz, the Chinese Ceyear, etc.
Since the start of the full-scale Russian invasion in February 2022 until recently, Radioline has carried out more than 50 separate customs clearance operations for shipments from various suppliers in multiple countries. Just like another STC partner, Protech LLC, which completed more than 90 customs clearance operations for imports of goods from different countries.
To understand the scale of STC’s needs for foreign components, we invite you to study the so-called. internal “procurement plan” of STC, obtained by Cyber Resistance. It indicates quite a lot of other potential foreign suppliers whose products are being chased by the STC management.
- STC procurement plan [XLSX]
To show the scope of foreign components procurement, our analysts made a summary table of purchased equipment with the country of origin, intended purpose of the product and information about its importer in the Russian Federation. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. More data obtained by the hacktivists was transferred to the relevant authorities and intelligence services in order to increase sanctions pressure on the aggressor state.
- List of suppliers [XLSX]
All these documents evidence that, albeit through roundabout routes and with considerable delays, Western components nevertheless reach Russia. Sooner or later, they end up in the weapons used to wage aggressive, unlawful and unjust war unleashed by the Russian Federation.
Can this be stopped? Definitely. Through publicity, increased sanctions pressure and tighter controls over the supply of dual-use goods to Russia.
Read more publications based on the data from Cyber Resistance hacktivists
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