As gear reviews go, it was a glowing one: In a 60-second video clip posted on Telegram, a masked sniper sporting the death’s-head insignia of the Wagner mercenary army sings the praises of the Russian-made Orsis T-5000 rifle.
“The equipment comes very well recommended,” the soldier, pictured in the charred interior of a building, tells a war reporter from the Zvezda TV channel run by the Russian Ministry of Defense.
Pulling out the clip of the weapon at his side, he continues: “It uses Western .338 caliber ammunition. It works very well. It can penetrate light cover if the enemy is behind it. And, in the open, it can strike the enemy at a range of up to 1,500 meters.”
And the “Western” ammunition?
Filings obtained by POLITICO indicate that Promtekhnologiya and another Russian firm called Tetis have acquired hundreds of thousands of rounds made by Hornady, a U.S. company that trademarks its wares as “Accurate. Deadly. Dependable.” Hornady, founded in 1949, sums up its philosophy with the phrase: “Ten bullets through one hole.”
The findings add to a growing body of evidence that supplies of lethal and nonlethal military equipment are still reaching Russia despite the West’s imposition of unprecedented sanctions in response to President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine last year. The exigencies of war have exposed Russia’s lack of capacity to manufacture high-end sniper rounds, say defense experts, and that is fueling a flourishing black market for Western ammunition.
Information on the procurement of such gear is hiding in plain sight: Details of deals — importers, suppliers and product descriptions — can be found online by anyone with access to the Russian internet and a grasp of international customs classification codes.