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Russia to crack down on weapons piracy
19.03.07

MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti military commentator Viktor Litovkin)

Russia’s First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov, the former defense minister who is now in charge of economic diversification and industrial innovation, told the latest meeting of the government’s Defense Industry Commission that some Eastern European countries still indulge in intellectual piracy and illegally use Soviet-era licenses in spite of Moscow’s numerous proposals to settle this issue.

“We have not yet received a clear answer to our requests from some countries,” Ivanov, who may run for president in 2008, said.

This statement is hardly sensational because, apart from being commonplace in NATO’s new Eastern European members, pirated Russian weapons and military equipment are found at international arms markets and fairs.

These unscrupulous intellectual pirates have no fear of international sanctions and are completely unashamed.

The Africa Aerospace and Defense-2006 show in Cape Town, held on September 20-24, was no exception because some Eastern European and other companies showed off pirated Russian brands. For instance, the Bumar Group, a Polish weapons producer, displayed its ZU-23 anti-aircraft system, an exact replica of a similar Russian weapon, which features twin 23-mm cannons on a towed two-wheel carriage.

The Polish company merely added two Russian-made Igla (Needle) man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS) to the ZU-23 and passed it off as its own weapon, thereby violating intellectual-property rights.

Moreover, Polish defense companies turn out unlicensed T-72 main battle tanks, armored vehicle launched bridges (AVLBs), self-propelled obstacle removers and rocket launchers.

But pirated Kalashnikov assault rifles, the most popular firearm ever made, are Moscow’s biggest headache because no progress has yet been made in curbing their spread.

Some NATO countries actively criticize Russia for its failure to thwart illegal CD and DVD sales but prefer to overlook the fact that other members of the alliance sell deadly weapons.

Bulgaria, for one, has supplied four Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoot ground-attack jets to Georgia, a South Caucasian republic, and promises to provide it with five similar warplanes.

Moreover, Sofia has shipped several batches of anti-tank and surface-to-air missiles, costing $10 million, to Tbilisi.

Sukhoi, Russia’s biggest warplane maker and holder of the patent for the Su-25, does not care about the sale of Soviet-era aircraft to third countries but is quite worried about the Bulgarian offer to upgrade them.

Without proper contract supervision, this would violate copyright law. Moreover, crashes involving airplanes with foreign components tarnish the parent company’s reputation.

The former Warsaw Pact members who have now joined NATO used to get Soviet weaponry and production licenses in the past. However, Moscow has repeatedly told them that such contracts have long been null and void and should be replaced with new ones.

Russia also made a similar offer to Brussels, guaranteeing contract supervision, component supplies, joint operations on global markets, as well as subsequent warranty and post-warranty support.

Unfortunately, Bulgaria, Poland, Romania and other NATO countries are turning a deaf ear to Moscow’s initiatives. They are not frightened by its promise to sue intellectual pirates in international courts.

Such behavior can probably be explained by the fact that Russian arms producers have not yet made good on their threats. Neither are the government and the Foreign Ministry doing much to help them.

Russia should obviously follow the United States’ example; Washington frequently slaps sanctions on countries and companies guilty of violating American companies’ patent rights.

U.S. authorities sue those turning out pirated CDs and Windows software packages. Unfortunately, Russia’s Federal Service for Intellectual Property, Patents and Trademarks is still unable to effectively cope with pirates either here or abroad.

The situation must be rectified, because otherwise senior Russian officials will continue to make empty gestures.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti. -0-