It seems China is preparing to get its hands dirty in the Russia-Ukraine War by selling its lethal weapons to support the aggressive invaders 365 days later.

A day before Ukraine marks one year since Russia’s “special military operation,” a German online magazine reported an alleged arms deal brewing behind closed doors between Moscow and Beijing.

Without name-dropping any specific sources, Der Spiegel said that Russia is currently negotiating with a Chinese company to acquire possibly more than a hundred Chinese kamikaze drones that will ramp up its planned assaults on Ukrainian cities in the coming months. The source—who contacted the online magazine on Thursday night—added that the unmanned drones are expected to be delivered to Russian troops as early as April if things go well.

A week prior to the information leak, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken spoke at the Munich Security Conference about concerns surrounding Chinese “lethal” supplies to Russia and reiterated serious sanction repercussions if Beijing furthers its alliance with Moscow.

We are very concerned that China is considering providing lethal support to Russia in its aggression against Ukraine,” Blinken added, “and I made clear that that would have serious consequences in our relationship as well.”

A top Chinese foreign policy official, Wang Yi, immediately reacted to his remarks, accusing Blinken of “spreading disinformation.” Yi was the same official who denied and called out the spy balloon saga as “hysterical” and “fake news” during his bilateral damage control tour in some parts of Europe (including France, Italy, Hungary, and Russia).

However, this recent report by Der Spiegel says otherwise.

When asked about the leaked report, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told reporters to have addressed the matter with China’s representatives. He said that such cooperation with Russia “cannot be accepted.”

Jumping Into The Russia-Ukraine Bandwagon

The Chinese company in question is Xian Bingo Intelligent Aviation Technology, which the unnamed source said plans to build a hundred ZT-180 prototype drones capable of launching 35-50 kilogram warheads. It resembles Iran’s Shahed-136, which Russia had repeatedly used to bombard different residential areas and infrastructures in Ukraine. These Iranian drones have caused billions of damage and civilian casualties.

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Upon further investigation, Der Spiegel learned that the drone model is not included in the Chinese company’s product portfolio, leading analysts to speculate that these drones may either be new or made to order by the Russian Army.

Apart from manufacturing the said drones, Xian Bingo also reportedly had plans to establish a production facility within Russia capable of producing up to a hundred aircraft per month domestically, the German magazine added.

An artist rendering of a HESA Shahed 136 drone. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

This is not the first time such military cooperation has emerged between China and Russia since the onset of the invasion of Ukraine. Apparently, a company owned by the Chinese Army had plans last year to provide Moscow with substantial military support—the former preparing to deliver spare parts for the latter’s SU-27 warplanes and other models, which have been affected by the Western sanctions. However, based on reports that uncovered this, falsifying shipping documents had been made to cover up the transaction, making it appear to be replacement parts for civilian aviation instead of military usage.

Repercussions of Chinese Support to Russia

Earlier allegations of China supporting Russia in the conflict in Ukraine have been debunked by the former, along with some analysts highlighting that Beijing would not jeopardize its economic growth, which could immediately collapse due to international sanctions that would surely ensue. However, suppose the drone supply pushes through, this could add more tension to the already boiling discourse and disrupt any progress in peace talks between the warring states—instead, escalate into a bloody World War Three.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stressed this concern a few days before publishing the German magazine’s intel. During US President Joe Biden’s unannounced visit to Ukraine, the Ukrainian leader proclaimed the importance of China not supporting “the Russian Federation in this war. In fact, I would like it to be on our side. At the moment, however, I don’t think it’s possible.”

Zelensky continued: “I do see an opportunity for China to make a pragmatic assessment of what is happening here. Because if China allies itself with Russia, there will be a world war, and I do think that China is aware of that.”

Meanwhile, a representative for the Chinese foreign ministry said that NATO countries, particularly the United States, remain the leading supplier of weapons for the battlefield in Ukraine, simultaneously dodging allegations of sending military support to Russia. With the recent intel leak, however, the secrecy surrounding Beijing’s involvement in the conflict continues to inch into the uncertain, and if proven to be true, questions such as how many, how much, and for how long the arms trade has been going on would be a feat to uncover.

Who knows, they might have been sending other lethal weaponry besides kamikaze drones already.