Photo: HKC Media

How Flemish components may have ended up in Russian military hardware in Ukraine

In a new report on the Flemish defence industry the Flemish Peace Institute warns against the presence of Flemish components in Russian military applications.  Researchers discovered that monitor screens produced by the then Kortrijk-based firm Barco now called ScioTeq are used in Russian anti-aircraft guns.  The company’s management explains the monitors were supplied ahead of EU sanctions introduced in 2014 following the seizure of Crimea.  After this, all interaction and communication with the Russians stopped the company says.

The Peace Institute points to the presence of two specialised Barco (ScioTeq) touchscreens in the Russian Pantsir S-1 high-tech anti-aircraft system. The mobile rocket system was produced between 2008 and 2013 and can fire 12 precision rockets at air targets at a distance of up to 20km.

The Peace Institute says Pantsir equipment using Barco monitors may be in use in Ukraine today.  Pantsir systems regularly turn up in Russian military videos showing action in Ukraine.  Some of the systems have even been captured by the Ukrainians, who are now using them!

Barco’s aviation and defence division was sold in 2015.  The Belgian activities eventually ended up with the Franco-American investment group OpenGate Capital and today operate under the name ScioTeq.

Scioteq’s Robbert Crucq explains that when the monitors were originally exported no arms export licence was required because they hadn’t been specifically developed or adapted for military use.

“A number of transactions happened between 2005 and 2014, before the takeover of Barco.  Between 100 and 200 monitors were supplied for the Pantsir S-1 i.e. for around 60 vehicles”.

“I have no information on the exact destination of the Pantsirs for which we supplied monitors.  It’s possible the vehicles are in Ukraine”.

The Peace Institute’s Diederik Cops explains no arms export licences are required for some goods and technologies because the Flemish authorities judge they are used for civil applications.  At the end of the day though some end up in military applications.  He argues in favour of greater restrictions.

He adds that it’s not clear in which products over half the Flemish arms exports that are subject to export licences are eventually used and who uses them.  Flemish products can be integrated into systems that then become components of a larger unit. “When this happens again and again, it’s hard to identify the actual military user” notes Cops.

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