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Russian tanks use chips from home appliances due to sanctions

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Doing quickly at the expense of quality: Previous stories have shown how Russia has been filling electronic component gaps resulting from international sanctions since it began its invasion of Ukraine. Recent findings in Ukraine show how far Russian manufacturers have gone.

During a Senate hearing on Wednesday, US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo cited Ukrainians who found semiconductors from dishwashers and refrigerators in Russian tanks. Ukrainian officials say they are substitutes for components that Russian manufacturers cannot obtain due to international sanctions.

Raimondo said US technology exports to Russia have fallen nearly 70% since Russia began its invasion in late February. Additionally, US Commerce Department spokeswoman Robyn Patterson said US component shipments to Russia fell 85% last year. Raimondo said the Ukrainian findings prove that sanctions are successfully reducing Russia’s war effort.

In line with the sanctions, computer companies like Intel, AMD, IBM, TSMC and GlobalFoundries have also halted chip sales to Russia.

One response from Russia has been to turn a blind eye to illegal imports of electronics and components. Russia also plans to develop local chip manufacturing and reverse engineering of Western electronics. The country wants to produce its own 28nm nodes by 2030. Chinese purchases of old lithography machines could make this goal unrealistic.

Russia isn’t the only entity cannibalizing devices to fill chip gaps. ASML CEO Peter Wennik admitted last month that some companies were repurposing chips from washing machines to make up for the global chip shortage.