A Chinese manufacturer is in talks with Russia over a sale of 100 drones, with a delivery date of April, German magazine Der Spiegel reported on Thursday.
Without citing specific sources, the report said Chinese drone manufacturer Xian Bingo Intelligent Aviation Technology had said it was prepared to make 100 prototypes of its ZT-180 drone for Russia.
Each drone can carry a 35-50kg warhead, the magazine reported, adding that Bingo also had plans to help establish a production site for the drone in Russia. The facility could produce 100 aircraft a month, it said.
Bingo’s ZT-180 drone was similar to Iran’s Shaheed-136, with which Russia has launched countless attacks on Ukraine, the magazine said.
Meanwhile, China’s foreign ministry said on Friday it is not aware of the reported deal.
“There has been a large volume of disinformation spread on this point. We should be vigilant about who is behind this,” ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told a news briefing.
Drone-maker Bingo could not immediately be reached for comment outside of normal business hours.
Earlier plans to aid Russia
A company controlled by the Chinese army also planned to send Russia spare parts for its SU-27 warplane last year, Der Spiegel said in its report.
The company planned to “falsify shipping documents” so the parts would appear to be meant for civil aviation, the magazine added.
The report comes at a time when tensions are high between Beijing and Washington over China’s continued alliance with Russia during its invasion of Ukraine.
In recent days, the United States, Germany and other Western countries have warned China to not sell weapons to Russia, saying that any such move would have severe consequences.
“I have told China’s representatives that it cannot be accepted,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told public broadcaster ZDF earlier on Thursday when asked about less specific reports that China might help Russia.
Last week, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken also warned China against giving Russia “lethal aid”. His comments worsened tensions between China and the US, even as the two superpowers attempted to mend ties frayed by the ‘spy balloon’ saga.
On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reported Washington was even considering releasing intelligence on China’s potential weapons transfer to Russia.
China has maintained its “no limits” partnership with Russia while the country remains hemmed in by severe Western sanctions over the Ukraine war.
Moscow is believed to have bought weaponry from Iran and North Korea, including drones from the former, but China has so far stood aside.
- Reuters, with additional editing by Vishakha Saxena