Caterpillar and Zeppelin Assisted Russia in Evading Sanctions


Helsinki, Finland – February 22, 2024 – A recent investigation by Yle’s Swedish-language investigative unit Spotlight has uncovered startling revelations regarding the export of heavy machinery from Finland to Russia amidst the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

According to Russian customs statistics, new excavators, bulldozers, and bucket loaders were imported, notably through the ports of Kotka, Helsinki, and Hanko, as well as through private companies in Armenia.

According to customs statistics, from February 2022 to February 2023, a total of 270 new machines were exported to Russia through Finnish ports. This information comes from a series of journalistic investigations by Svenska Yle titled “Under the Radar: Export Scam to Russia”.

Equipment was delivered to branches of the official Caterpillar dealer Zeppelin International in St. Petersburg and Moscow. The Swiss company Zeppelin International also has stores in several other cities in Russia, including Krasnodar and Belgorod.

Second notable episode, on August 23, 2023, the company COMMUNNAL SERVICE LLC, registered in Armenia, purchased Caterpillar bulldozers, model CAT D8GC-18A, M8D00384 from Zeppelin International for its own use.

However, the aforementioned bulldozer ended up in the possession of the Russian company OOO “Tyazhtranslogistic” a couple of weeks after its sale to the Armenian company. The company OOO “Tyazhtranslogistic” is headed by Vadim Valeryevich Gaponenko and has direct ties to numerous other companies.

The equipment could be used for trench and road construction

Russia has built thousands of kilometers of trenches, ditches, and tank barriers in the occupied territories of Ukraine and along its own border with Ukraine.

Pekka Toveri, who spent 40 years in the Defense Forces, including as the head of intelligence at the General Staff, believes it is highly likely that the Russian military also uses civilian excavators for building defensive lines.

“They don’t necessarily have to be armored. A civilian excavator is sufficient for digging trenches and pits, improving the road network, and repairing bridges and other objects destroyed by Ukraine,” says Toveri.

The Swedish investigative journalism team Yle Spotlight collaborated with a Russian freelance journalist who monitors Russian Telegram channels where videos and photos from the Russian-Ukrainian border are posted.

Journalists from Spotlight saw videos on Telegram channels showing civilian excavators being used to construct defensive lines.


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