​Arms Baron and the "Official Distributor," Or How russia Buys Weapons From Italian Beretta and the West

Illsutrative photo source: Sako (part of Berretta Holding)
Illsutrative photo source: Sako (part of Berretta Holding)

Another clear example of how russian invasion forces circumvent weapon supply restrictions despite all the sanctions and embargoes

Despite the embargo imposed by the Italian government and sanction regime, the russian federation still gets Italian-brand weapons and ammunition, an investigation by IrpiMedia reveals.

For example, the OrelExpo 2023 military forum in russia featured rifles from the United States, the United Kingdom, and countries of the European Union. Precisely, since the beginning of the russian wider invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, there were 6,254 small arms and 1,107,600 rounds for them delivered to russia, most of which (5,913 rifles and pistols; 825,900 rounds) made at Beretta group factories located in Italy, Finland, Sweden, Germany, etc.

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American marines with Beretta M9 (Beretta 92FS)
American marines with Beretta M9 (Beretta 92FS) pistols / Photo credit: U.S. Navy

Bypassing the sanctions became possible through the reimport of weapons through third countries, and a significant role in this process belongs to the so-called "Moscow arms baron" Mikhail Khubutia, who was previously a co-owner and head of the Russkiy Orel (russian Eagle) company until a person from his close circle assumed his position in 2019.

In May 2010, the Italian company Beretta Industrie S.P.A. bought 51% of the shares of Russkiy Orel. Then, after the annexation of Crimea, a series of agreements resulted in Beretta Holding S.A. (Luxembourg) holding 57.95% of the shares of the russian company.

For 11 years, from 2010 to 2021, Khubutia himself controlled the russian Certification and Testing Center for Civil and Service Weapons and issued thousands of import certificates, IrpiMedia journalists found out.

Meanwhile, the website of the Russkiy Orel explicitly says on its home page that the company is the official distributor of Beretta Holding in the russian federation and has a notice offering "regular wholesale supplies of foreign-made weapons, optics, and equipment."

As the article continues, data on these supplies was obtained via analysis of certificates of conformity and official documents issued by Rosakreditatsia federal accreditation service; the documents include information about the manufacturer and importer, but without specifying the names of those who sold the weapons.

The Italian investigators note that although weapons produced by Beretta stopped being delivered to russia directly after February 2022, the supplies continued, for example, through trading partners in Turkey, which did not impose an embargo against the russian federation.

Most of the rifles flowing into russia in such a roundabout way are intended for hunting, but there are military weapons as well. For example, Beretta 92FS semi-automatic pistols and Sako TRG-42 sniper rifles with a range of almost 3 km are supplied to special forces of various countries, they were used in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, as of today, there is no information that these guns were used by the russian invasion forces in Ukraine. Still, Beretta did not respond to a request to comment on this situation, the journalists say.

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