Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov on Monday said that nearly all of Russia’s drones are being supplied by China.
In a meeting for the State Duma’s Budget and Taxes Committee, Siluanov thanked the Chinese government for partnering with Moscow but urged Russia to work on developing its “own resource base,” according to a report by Ukrainian news outlet Pravda.
“Today, almost all drones are from China,” Siluanov said. “We are also grateful to our partners for this. But we need to develop our own resource base, and the necessary money has been allocated.”
The statement paints a clearer picture of Russia and China’s growing partnership since the start of the war in Ukraine, and directly contradicts Beijing’s past promise to not provide Russia with military aid. Russian President Vladimir Putin also claimed after hosting Chinese leader Xi Jinping in March that the countries would not create a military alliance, vowing to keep the cooperation between their armed forces “transparent,” reported Reuters.
Siluanov’s comments during Monday’s meeting arrived after announcing that Russia has allocated over $616 million for “a new national project to develop our own drone base,” adding that Moscow’s “objective is for 41 percent of all drones to be labelled ‘Made in Russia’ by 2025.”
Newsweek reached out to the Russian Ministry of Defense and China’s Foreign Ministry via email for comment on Monday.
In nearly 20 months, the Russian-Ukraine war has spurred drone development for both sides as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) continue to play a key role in the conflict. Russia has long relied on Iranian-made Shahed-131 and 136 UAVs through its invasion of Ukraine, and the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defense assessed in June that Russia was starting work on producing its own drone supply domestically, “almost certainly with Iranian assistance.”
China, one of the world’s leading exporters of drones, enacted new restrictions at the beginning of September on larger drones and related UAV parts, causing a roadblock for several Ukrainian drone companies from receiving supplies, The New York Times previously reported. Prior to the trade restrictions, Ukrainian drone manufacturers had received $200,000 worth of drones from Chinese companies between January and June, according to the Times.
During the same period, according to the Times, Russia had received $14.5 million in direct drone sales from Chinese companies. Russian state media Kommersant previously reported, however, that China’s export restrictions also “seriously complicated” drone deliveries for Moscow.
The White House has repeatedly admonished Chinese companies for aiding in Moscow’s development of drone technology. In September, the U.S. Commerce Department announced new trade restrictions on 11 Chinese and five Russian companies that it claimed were supplying drone equipment for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, reported Reuters.