Two men from Kansas were arrested Thursday by the Justice Department on charges that they illegally exported aviation technology to Russia and repaired equipment there.

Douglas Robertson and Cyril Gregory Buyanovsky have been charged with conspiracy, exporting controlled goods without a licence, falsifying and failing to file electronic export information, and smuggling goods in violation of U.S. law.

The accusations come as the United States has significantly increased its sanctions and financial penalties against Russia since the latter’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. The Kremlin is subject to export controls in an effort to restrict its access to computer chips and other products necessary to outfit a modern military, just one of the thousands of sanctions imposed on individuals and companies.

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The Justice Department claims that Buyanovsky and Robertson ran KanRus Trading Co., which sold aircraft electronics to Russian companies and repaired machinery used in Russian-made planes.

According to the indictment, the defendants have been plotting to circumvent U.S. export laws since at least 2020 by shipping equipment through third countries and failing to disclose the true end users and destinations of their exports.

If found guilty, they could spend up to 35 years behind bars. A request for the names of Buyanovsky and Robertson’s attorneys was not met with an immediate response from the Justice Department. It’s being looked into by the FBI and the Office of Export Enforcement in the Commerce Department.

Assistant Secretary for Export Enforcement at the Bureau of Industry and Security, Matthew S. Axelrod, spoke Thursday at an American Bar Association event in Miami, noting that sensitive technologies being sent to countries like Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea are “top of our list from an enforcement perspective” due to their efforts to “take advantage of rapid advances in technology.”

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U.S. officials have stated that they will increase enforcement and sanctions against individuals and organisations that aid Russia in acquiring weaponry and technology that would strengthen Russia’s military since the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

On February 28 — only four days after the outbreak of war in Ukraine — port authorities intercepted a shipment of contraband and informed the defendants that they did not have the proper licence to export the equipment to Russia.

The Department of Justice also reports that the FBI and US Department of Commerce conducted an additional investigation, which uncovered an email sent by Robertson to a Russian client in April, in which he allegedly said “things are complicated in the USA” and “[t]his is NOT the right time for [more paperwork and visibility].”

Despite these setbacks, Buyanovsky and Robertson allegedly continued their criminal activity over the next three months, sending shipments to Russia via Armenia and Cyprus without the proper licences. The arrests didn’t happen until March 2 of this year, and a trial date hasn’t been set as of yet.

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