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Tech sector unwittingly aiding Russia: Dutch official

The Netherlands is home to top companies in the semiconductor and microchip sectors.

(AFP) — The Dutch military intelligence service has warned companies that Moscow is trying to obtain high-tech assets for its war in Ukraine through front companies, local media reported Friday.

Jan Swillens, head of the military intelligence service of the Netherlands (MIVD) said that Russian secret services have set up dozens of "front companies" in the Netherlands to evade Western sanctions. 

These companies buy technology in the Netherlands and then import it into Russia for military purposes, he told the Financieele Dagblad (FD) daily.

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His comments were confirmed by the Dutch defense ministry, according to the Dutch news agency ANP and NOS public television.

Such practices have existed since the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, "but with the war in Ukraine it is increasing significantly", Swillens told the FD. 

The Netherlands is home to top companies in the semiconductor and microchip sectors, such as NXP and ASML.

A defense spokesman was quoted by ANP as saying that the tougher sanctions introduced by Western nations against Russia, over its invasion of Ukraine have changed things for Russian intelligence agencies.

"The tougher the sanctions, the more difficult it becomes for Russian intelligence, and the more inventive they have to be to get around the sanctions," the spokesman said.

It is therefore "difficult" for entrepreneurs to realize that they are doing business indirectly with Russia, he added.

The MIVD is calling on companies to conduct more in-depth research into their customers and find out about the actual end-users of their products, NOS TV reported.

When contacted by AFP, the defense ministry was not immediately available for comment. 

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