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China’s DJI halts Russia, Ukraine sales to prevent use of its drones in combat

SHENZHEN, China – Drone giant DJI Technology Co said it will temporarily suspend business in Russia and Ukraine to ensure its products are not used in combat, making it the first major Chinese firm to cite the conflict in halting sales in Russia.

Ukrainian officials and citizens have accused DJI of leaking data on the Ukrainian military to Russia – allegations the world’s largest maker of consumer and industrial drones has called “utterly false”.

In contrast to the many Western firms that have pulled out of Russia to protest its invasion of Ukraine, Chinese companies have stayed there, in line with Beijing’s stance of refraining from criticism of Moscow over the conflict.

A DJI spokesperson said on Wednesday its suspension of business in Russia and Ukraine was “not to make a statement about any country, but to make a statement about our principles”.

“DJI abhors any use of our drones to cause harm, and we are temporarily suspending sales in these countries in order to help ensure no-one uses our drones in combat.”

A company representative said last month DJI was aware of footage online that suggested the Russian military was using its products, but it had not been able to confirm this and the company had no control over the use of its products.

Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation” to disarm Ukraine and protect it from fascists. Ukraine and the West say this a false pretext for an unprovoked war of aggression.

Privately held DJI does not release financial information but research firm Drone Analyst has estimated that it had hardware revenue of $2.9 billion in 2020.

The conflict has put Chinese companies in a bind. Continuing to operate in Russia has drawn international criticism, but withdrawing would risk a backlash from the Chinese public.

In February, ride-hailing giant Didi Global DIDI.N reversed a decision to leave Russia and Kazakhstan after domestic social media users accused it of succumbing to U.S. pressure.

Telecoms equipment maker Huawei Technologies HWT.UL is also under scrutiny over whether it plans to stay in Russia. The company did not take any Russia-related questions at its annual analyst summit on Tuesday. – Reuters

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