China’s DJI halts sales to Russia and Ukraine to prevent its drones from being used in combat

SHENZHEN, China, April 27 (Reuters) – Drone giant DJI Technology Co said it would temporarily suspend operations in Russia and Ukraine to ensure its products are not used in combat, making it the first major Chinese company to invoke the dispute to halt sales to Russia.

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

Unlike many Western companies that pulled out of Russia to protest its invasion of Ukraine, Chinese companies stayed there, in line with Beijing’s position to refrain from criticizing Moscow over the conflict.

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A DJI spokesperson said Wednesday that its suspension of business in Russia and Ukraine was “not to make a statement about one 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 to ensure no one uses our drones in combat.”

A company representative said last month that DJI was aware of online footage suggesting the Russian military was using its products, but had been unable to confirm this and the company had not 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 is a false pretext for an unprovoked war of aggression.

Privately held DJI does not release financial information, but research firm Drone Analyst estimated 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, carpooling giant Didi Global (DIDI.N) reversed its decision to leave Russia and Kazakhstan after domestic social media users accused it of bowing to US pressure.

Telecommunications equipment maker Huawei Technologies (HWT.UL) is also under scrutiny over whether it plans to stay in Russia. The company did not respond to any Russia-related questions at its annual analyst summit on Tuesday. L2N2WO0PL

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Reporting by David Kirton; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell and Edwina Gibbs

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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