China supporting Russia would be ‘a mistake’ says Sullivan
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A Chinese satellite company has “provided aerial images” to Russia’s Wagner mercenaries, according to a US official. Speaking at a congressional hearing this morning, Daniel Kritenbrink, US assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, claimed that Beijing-based Spacety had been aiding the network of mercenaries that are regarded as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s private army. Spacety, which has its international headquarters in Luxembourg, is a space firm that specialises in small satellites and satellite-based services.
Earlier this month, Spacety was sanctioned by the US government for working with the Wagner group, by sending satellite images of Ukraine.
However, the Chinese start-up denied those allegations, saying that it had complied with international sanctions against Russia and maintained no ties with the country after it was hit with sanctions by the West.
Over the past year, commercial satellite imagery firms such as Planet, Maxar and BlackSky have also played a crucial role in the war effort against Russia, providing intelligence by taking pictures of the conflict from above and sharing them openly.
For example, images by Planet Labs in early August showed that a Ukrainian attack on a Russian military base in Crimea caused more damage than Russia had suggested in public reports.
Such intelligence could be dangerous in the hands of a mercenary group like Wagner, which according to Pentagon officials has 50,000 soldiers in Ukraine, of which 40,000 are convicts.
After it was sanctioned by the US earlier this month, Spacety released a statement, denying that it had breached any foreign laws.
The company said: “We … solemnly affirm and declare that we have been strictly abiding by the laws and regulations of relevant countries and regions in course of business development, and fully comply with the international sanctions imposed on Russia by the United States and the European Union, and never have any ties with Russia at all after international sanctions were imposed.
“Our products and services are all used for civil and commercial purposes and do not involve any military use.
“We have never had any commercial relationship, or made any deal, or signed any agreements with the Russian entity accused by the United States or other Russian entities, and we have never … participated in any form of military activities in support of the Russo-Ukrainian War and the Wagner group.”
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