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Russia is increasing its cooperation with China in 5G and satellite technology and this could facilitate Moscow’s military aggression against Ukraine, a report by the London-based Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) security think tank warns.

The report, published on March 1, says that although battlefield integration of 5G networks may face domestic hurdles in Russia, infrastructure for Chinese aid to Russian satellite systems already exists and can “facilitate Russian military action in Ukraine.”

China, which maintains close ties with Moscow, has refused to condemn Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine and offered economic support to Russia that has helped the Kremlin survive waves of sweeping Western sanctions.

Beijing has said that it does not sell lethal weapons to Russia for its war against Ukraine, but Western governments have repeatedly accused China of aiding in the flow of technology to Russia’s war effort despite Western sanctions.

The RUSI report details how the cooperation between Russia and China in 5G and satellite technology can also help Russia on the battlefield in Ukraine.

“Extensive deployment of drones and advanced telecommunications equipment have been crucial on all fronts in Ukraine, from intelligence collection to air-strike campaigns,” the report says.

“These technologies, though critical, require steady connectivity and geospatial support, making cooperation with China a potential solution to Moscow’s desire for a military breakthrough.”

According to the report, 5G network development has gained particular significance in Russo-Chinese strategic relations in recent years, resulting in a sequence of agreements between Chinese technology giant Huawei and Russian companies MTS and Beeline, both under sanctions by Canada for being linked to Russia’s military-industrial complex.

5G is a technology standard for cellular networks, which allows a higher speed of data transfer than its predecessor, 4G. According to the RUSI’s report, 5G “has the potential to reshape the battlefield” through enhanced tracking of military objects, faster transferring and real-time processing of large sensor datasets and enhanced communications.

These are “precisely the features that could render Russo-Chinese 5G cooperation extremely useful in a wartime context — and therefore create a heightened risk for Ukraine,” the report adds.

Although the report says that there are currently “operational and institutional constraints” to Russia’s battlefield integration of 5G technology, it has advantages which make it an “appealing priority” for Moscow, Jack Crawford, a research analyst at RUSI and one of the authors of the report, said.

“As Russia continues to seek battlefield advantages over Ukraine, recent improvements in 5G against jamming technologies make 5G communications — both on the ground and with aerial weapons and vehicles — an even more appealing priority,” Crawford told RFE/RL in an e-mailed response.

Satellite technology, however, is already the focus of the collaboration between China and Russia, the report says, pointing to recent major developments in the collaboration between the Russian satellite navigation system GLONASS and its Chinese equivalent, Beidou.

In 2018, Russia and China agreed on the joint application of GLONASS/Beidou and in 2022 decided to build three Russian monitoring stations in China and three Chinese stations in Russia — in the city of Obninsk, about 100 kilometers southwest of Moscow, the Siberian city of Irkutsk, and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky in Russia’s Far East.

Satellite technology can collect imagery, weather and terrain data, improve logistics management, track troop movements, and enhance precision in the identification and elimination of ground targets.

According to the report, GLONASS has already enabled Russian missile and drone strikes in Ukraine through satellite correction and supported communications between Russian troops.

The anticipated construction of Beidou’s Obninsk monitoring station, the closest of the three Chinese stations to Ukraine, would allow Russia to increasingly leverage satellite cooperation with China against Ukraine, the report warns.

In 2022, the Russian company Racurs, which provides software solutions for photogrammetry, GIS, and remote sensing, signed satellite data-sharing agreements with two Chinese companies. The deals were aimed at replacing contracts with Western satellite companies that suspended data supply in Russia following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

The two companies — HEAD Aerospace and Spacety — are both under sanctions by the United States for supplying satellite imagery of locations in Ukraine to entities affiliated with the Wagner mercenary group.

“For the time being, we cannot trace how exactly these shared data have informed specific decisions on the front line,” Roman Kolodii, a security expert at Charles University in Prague and one of the authors of the report, told RFE/RL.

“However, since Racurs is a partner of the Russian Ministry of Defense, it is highly likely that such data might end up strengthening Russia’s geospatial capabilities in the military domain, too.”

“Ultimately, such dynamic interactions with Chinese companies may improve Russian military logistics, reconnaissance capabilities, geospatial intelligence, and drone deployment in Ukraine,” the report says.

The report comes as Western governments are stepping up efforts to counter Russia’s attempt to evade sanctions imposed as a response to its military aggression against Ukraine.

On February 23, on the eve of the second anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion, the United States imposed sanctions on nearly 100 entities that are helping Russia evade trade sanctions and “providing backdoor support for Russia’s war machine.”

The list includes Chinese companies, accused of supporting “Russia’s military-industrial base.”

With reporting by Merhat Sharpizhanov

This content originally appeared on News – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty and was authored by News – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty.

This post was originally published on Radio Free.