“As sanctions and export controls on Russia from our international coalition continue to bite, the Kremlin is desperately searching for arms and support--including through the brutal Wagner Group--to continue its unjust war against Ukraine,” said Secretary of the Treasury Janet L. Yellen. “Today’s expanded sanctions on Wagner, as well as new sanctions on their associates and other companies enabling the Russian military complex, will further impede Putin’s ability to arm and equip his war machine.”
On Thursday, the US Treasury announced new sanctions against eight individuals, 16 entities, and four aircraft. One of them is the Luxembourg space start-up Spacety Europe, a subsidiary of the Chinese group Changsha Tianyi Space Science and Technology Research Institute.
High resolution images
According to the Treasury, the Chinese company delivered synthetic aperture radar satellite images of sites in Ukraine via another Russian company, Terra Tech. These images were gathered to enable Wagner’s combat operations in Ukraine.
On 22 December 2020, Spacety announced the launch of its first Hisea-1 SAR satellite into orbit. The first images provided by the satellite had a resolution of three metres, but theoretically the company’s experts had announced the figure of one metre and were working towards a resolution of 50 centimetres. The areas covered include Asia, North America, South America, Europe and Antarctica, with typical landforms of cities, mountains, fields, forests, rivers, lakes, glaciers and coastlines. In February 2022, the space start-up launched its 25th satellite, capable of providing “high resolution, high quality imagery day or night, rain or shine, or under other complex weather or lighting conditions.”
In January 2022, Spacety also announced a partnership with the University of Luxembourg on the thorny issue of space debris. In 2021, the latest data available, it had achieved a turnover of €170,000, slightly up compared to 2020, and was still making a loss. When contacted, it had not yet responded to our questions at the time of publication of this article.
In a statement released very quickly, the Luxembourg government said that it had been in contact with the US authorities prior to the Treasury’s decision and that it takes these measures very seriously. “The competent Luxembourg authorities are awaiting concrete information from the US authorities on the possible involvement of Spacety Luxembourg, a subsidiary of Spacety China, in the transfer of satellite images referred to in the US Treasury communication,” the text said. “An interministerial consultation has already been launched to study whether, in accordance with the legal and regulatory framework, and in the event that concrete information is received from the American authorities, possible measures against Spacety Luxembourg S.A. are also necessary at national level.”
The government recalls that it has also regularly intervened with the Chinese authorities so that they too put pressure on Russia and on Chinese companies that could provide assistance to the Russians.
This story was first published in French on Paperjam. It has been translated and edited for Delano.