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Chinese drone maker halts business with Russia, Ukraine

Chinese drone maker DJI faced intense criticism last month from Ukraine, which accused it of letting Russian forces use its technology in military operations, including against civilians.

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The world’s largest drone maker DJI has said it will suspend all business operations in Russia and Ukraine, in a rare public move by a Chinese firm since Moscow’s invasion of its neighbour.

Russia has been hit with an avalanche of sanctions over the war and many Western multinationals have pulled out of the country.

Beijing has refused to condemn the invasion, however, and Chinese companies have largely remained silent about how they will handle the impact of sanctions.

Read more: French president wants more sanctions against Russia

“DJI is internally reassessing compliance requirements in various jurisdictions,” the company said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Pending the current review, DJI will temporarily suspend all business activities in Russia and Ukraine.”

The firm did not mention sanctions on Russia. AFP has contacted DJI for comment.

DJI criticized for selling drones to Russia

DJI faced intense criticism last month from Ukraine, which accused the Shenzhen-based firm of letting Russian forces use its technology in military operations, including against civilians.

“@DJIGlobal are you sure you want to be a partner in these murders?” Ukraine’s Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov had tweeted.

“Block your products that are helping Russia to kill the Ukrainians!”

The Ukrainian criticism was centred on DJI’s AeroScope system, which allows users to detect and monitor drones in its vicinity. It is marketed as a tool to protect sensitive facilities such as airports and prisons.

Kyiv has alleged that the system has been used by Russia to guide its missiles.

The company has strongly denied that it allowed Russia to use its products for military purposes or provided location data on Ukrainian positions.

Read more: US says Ukraine will beat Russia with right weapons

It said in its reply to Fedorov on Twitter, however, that the feature that allows DJI drones to be detected by AeroScope cannot be turned off.

DJI has “unequivocally opposed attempts to attach weapons to our products”, the firm said in a statement last week.

“We will never accept any use of our products to cause harm.”

DJI has previously come under fire from human rights activists for allegedly aiding surveillance efforts in China’s Xinjiang region, where an estimated million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities have been detained in a sweeping security crackdown.

The US Treasury Department sanctioned the firm in December, banning Americans from trading its shares — though DJI is not publicly listed.

Courtesy: AFP