June 3, 2023
Chinese body armor components are being sent to Russia and used by soldiers fighting in Ukraine, an investigation found.

Chinese body armor components are being sent to Russia and used by soldiers fighting in Ukraine, an investigation found.

Customs and trade data, personal testimony from Ukrainian soldiers, and photographs viewed by Politico revealed that several Chinese companies, some state linked, have sent crucial components of the armor to Russian body armor manufacturers with close ties to law enforcement and the military.


Some of the body armor was taken from Russian soldiers by Ukrainians and put up for sale on eBay. Though the extent of the use of the Klass vests is unknown, it is the first confirmed case of Chinese body armor components being used by Russia in Ukraine.

Russia China
Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, deliver his speech as Russian President Vladimir Putin listens to him during their dinner at The Palace of the Facets in the Moscow Kremlin, Russia, Tuesday, March 21, 2023.
Pavel Byrkin/AP

The presence of the equipment also poses an awkward situation for the United States. Body armor’s double status as commercial and military equipment blurs the line between what constitutes military aid and what doesn’t.

“The administration has likely seen a lot of things in the record that are discomforting. But they could say, ‘Well, it is not a surface-air missile system, so maybe we’ll just kind of look the other way on this,’” Ivan Kanapathy, the former director for China, Taiwan, and Mongolia at the National Security Council, told the outlet. “The line is fuzzy by design. And the assessment is being influenced by the U.S.-China relationship, perhaps naively hoping that China isn’t already in the Russia camp.”

Two of the Chinese companies that shipped the materials were Yantai Tayho Advanced Materials Ltd., which produces specialized fiber, and Beijing Tongyizhong New Material Technology Corp., which sells polyethylene fiber products and is linked to the Chinese government.

One of the Ukrainians looking to sell the body armor on eBay told Politico that it had been captured during the country’s successful September counteroffensive in the Kharkiv oblast.


“This bulletproof vest was used in the Russian army and was obtained by the Ukrainian military during the counter offensive in the Kharkiv region,” he said. “During the liberation of the city of Izyum in one of the houses where the [Russians] temporarily lived, they ran away so quickly that they abandoned their things.”

The U.S. has imposed some sanctions on other Chinese companies that have supplied Russia with materials that help the war effort, such as drones.

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