India hands ‘lifeline’ to Putin’s war efforts as Russian arms ships sidestep US sanctions

Russia: Sanctions ‘devastating’ economy says commentator

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New analysis has found that at least seven US-sanctioned Russian ships have docked in India over the past month. These vessels were hit with these sanctions due to their affiliation with shipping companies that have a history of transporting weapons for the Kremlin. Of these seven vessels, six were cargo ships, and one was an oil tanker, highlighting the difficulties the US and its allies in Europe have faced in their attempts to isolate Vladimir Putin for his brutal invasion of Ukraine.

Although it is unclear what was on the cargo ships that docked in India, these Russian vessels were targeted by the US because of their connections to sanctioned Russian shipping companies that have a history of transporting arms on behalf of the Russian government.

Jack Margolin, a program director with the Center for Advanced Defense Studies said: “These vessels and their owners are repeat offenders that analysts have watched for years.”

The Centre, which tracks global illicit networks and sanctions compliance, shared the data on the sanctioned Russian vessels with Foreign Policy.

He told them: “They have histories of supporting both Russia’s sanctions evasion and arms trafficking.”

An investigation by the independent Russian news site Meduza revealed that two of these cargo vessels, the Adler and the Ascalon, were previously involved in the delivery of a shipment of S-400 surface-to-air missiles from Russia to China in 2018 while sailing under different names.

Meanwhile, another ship, named the Maia 1, reportedly shipped military equipment, and was docked at the port of Cochin in south India last month.

Meanwhile, the oil tanker Inda was accused of shipping Iranian crude oil by the US-based advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran.

Mr Margolin noted: “Networks like these will continue to be a lifeline for Russia and its war effort so long as they can seize on gaps in enforcement.”

India has not joined the US and Europe in their efforts to punish Putin for invading Ukraine through economic sanctions.

A key reason for this India and Russia have had close relations that stretch back to the Soviet Union.

While India is not a major importer of Russian oil and gas, it is heavily dependent on Moscow for arms, handing it more than $25billion (£20billion) over the last 10 years, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

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About 85 percent of New Delhi’s military equipment is of Russian or Soviet origin, and analysis by the Stimson Center shows that India is heavily dependent on Russia for the development of new cutting-edge military technologies, including air defence, supersonic cruise missiles, and naval nuclear propulsion.

Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia program at the Wilson Center said: “[India] has long seen Russia as a loyal and potentially trustworthy friend that has gone to bat for India on the global stage.”

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