Hi-Tech Hijinks

Ilias Sabirov, a Moscow businessman, had supplied Russia’s military with high-performance computer chips made in the United States for years.

His business became more difficult in 2014 when Russia seized the peninsula of Crimea. At that time, the US clamped down on Russia with a series of new sanctions and export controls. These severely restricted the sale of the chips that Sabirov had provided to his country’s military for so long.

Putin listens to the chief executive director of the Almaz-Antey Air Defense firm during a tour of its plant in Moscow. Image credit: Reuters/RIA Novosti

The problem for Sabirov was that he grew quite fond of the considerable sums of money he was earning supplying these special chips to the Russian military machine, and the sanctions did not stop him from obtaining more.

In the spring of 2015, a box containing more than 100 memory chips (specially hardened to resist radiation and extreme temperatures) arrived at Sabirov’s business address in Moscow. You can’t just order this type of thing online from Newegg; these were military-grade, critical components of missile systems and military spy satellites.