Ericsson continues to supply mobile phone equipment to Russia despite its pledge to halt operations in the country after Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Swedish telecoms company has applied for dozens of exemptions from domestic export controls on “dual-use” products, according to Radio Sweden, the country’s state broadcaster. Dual-use products are those that can be used for military purposes as well as for civilian purposes. Examples might include advanced radios or GPS equipment.
Ericsson is one of two western companies that produce the latest 5G network equipment, the other being Nokia. Last year, Ericsson partnered with Russia’s telco MTS to launch a “private” 5G network for the gold miner.
Swedish radio said seven of Ericsson’s export license applications had been granted, and reported that they were for civilian mobile network equipment. This equipment is subject to sanctions because the Russian military can also use it for communications.
An Ericsson spokesperson said: “The Swedish and European Union authorities have granted limited waivers to Ericsson and other companies to provide technical and software assistance needed to maintain public civilian communications networks.
“These exceptions expire at the end of the year and Ericsson will remain fully compliant with Swedish, European Union and United States sanctions.”
The Swedish Inspection Authority for Strategic Products, the export control regulator, said it would not grant any export licenses for military use or dual-use equipment destined for Russia.
In April, Ericsson said it was halting operations in Russia “indefinitely”, posting a £73m drop and reportedly making 400 employees redundant.
The suspension came as most companies in the Western tech world, including rivals Ericsson Nokia and Oracle, made similar promises to withdraw their operations from Russia.
Telecom analyst Paolo Pescatore, of BP Foresight, said the revelation that Ericsson continued to support its Russian operations appeared to apply to “products that shipped before the sanctions.”
He said, “Unfortunately, this will never be apparent because there is equipment out there that needs maintenance. A gray area that needs to be clearly addressed if there is a complete exit from the market.”
In March, Ericsson admitted that employees in Iraq were bribing members of the fundamentalist Islamic State in order to maintain sales activity in the war-torn country.
The company said that an internal investigation revealed the 2019 scheme, which included “the use of alternative transportation routes in relation to circumventing Iraqi customs, at a time when terrorist organizations, including ISIS, were in control of some transportation routes.”