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Tuesday 20.02.2018 | Name days: Smuidra, Vitauts, Smuidris

Russian tank manufacturer builds a plant in Jelgava; CPB sees risks for Latvia’s security

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RURussian Uralvagonzavod has launched a massive project in Jelgava, Latvia. Its reputation in Latvia is that of a world-class railway wagon manufacturer. Its actual field of work – manufacturing of military machinery and tanks – is omitted by the company.

Military experts say a world-class military manufacturer like Uralvagonzavod also has the most modern security service among all Russian companies. This includes former and current officers of special services, who keep military secrets safe. Latvian Constitution Protection Bureau notes – this company’s entry into Latvia’s market means increased security risks for Latvia, as reported by Nekā personīga programme of TV3.

One year ago, the foundation of what would later become the project for the construction of a railway wagon manufacturing plant in Jelgava was set on the highest level of the government. Latvian President, Russian ambassador and Russian Industry and Trade Minister were all present. No one mentioned anything about tanks that day.

The construction of the plant was initiated. The Russian company is represented by UVZ Baltija in Latvia. It is owned by UVZ International, which is owned by the Russian state owned Uralvagonzavod.

One of the first things UVZ Baltija did in Latvia was the purchase of a building in Mezaparks worth EUR 1,300,000. Then the company procured land for the new plant – on the territory of the former Jelgava sugar factory. This cost EUR 1,358,000. The Russian company spared no expense for the construction of the plant as well. One year ago, the company promised to invest 30 million in the project. Now, the promise has grown even more.

‘The management has decided to increase the project’s worth. We had initially planned for EUR 30 million. Now we plan to increase the project’s worth by an additional EUR 50 million and building a new department for containers and composite wagons,’ – says UVZ Baltija Chairman Andrey Sachik.

Uralvagonzavod has chosen Latvia because there are many Russian-speakers living there, good investment climate and trained specialists. The company’s manager in Latvia does not mention Uralvagonzavod’s main area of expertise – military industry.

‘Tanks – is one of its main areas of expertise. I would also like to mention that Uralvagonzavod is the largest manufacturer of cargo wagons in the world, because there is high demand for cargo wagons. Uzalvagonzavod manufactures 35-36 thousand wagons annually. There is no other company in the world with this kind of production output. […] Latvia has never been engaged in cargo wagon manufacturing. This is a pilot project to see if Latvia can sustain a manufacturing industry it has never had before,’ – says Sachik.

The first UVZ plant in Russia was built in 1937. Every second Soviet tank to be used in World War II was manufactured in this plant. Seven year ago, the company created a network of companies whose main objective was to strengthen Russia’s military power. It includes 22 plants, research institutes and laboratories.

The company’s trademark is T-72 tank. A next generation tank – T-90 – was recently commissioned for production. The plant’s manufacturing output allows for the release of at least 1,000 armoured combat vehicles annually. The advantage of Russian tanks over vehicles produced by their counterparts produced by other countries is relatively small weight – 45 tons. This is why Russian tanks are exceptional manoeuvrable. Another pride of Uralvagonzavod is the Terminator support vehicle.

‘It’s hard to say how many tanks they have right now. It is absolutely clear, however, that their numbers will grow by the year 2020, because the programme provides for the production and modernization of T-90 tanks and the release of a new type of tank – Armata. It is currently in development stage. With that, the concern is on a rising tide,’ – believes relieved Captain of Latvian National Armed Forces Mārtiņš Vērdiņš.

If the Ukrainian crisis keeps escalating, it can be safely predicted that managers of military production plants will be added to the list of western sanctions.

The loyalty of employees of the network of plants towards Vladimir Putin is further demonstrated by now a legendary tale how a simple labourer Igor Halmanskih became a politician. The head of the plant’s production department promised Vladimir Putin during a live telecommunications event to help combat protests in Moscow. He then organized support groups for Putin’s re-election. Putin’s first video call after the closure of election sites was to Uralvagonzavod. Shortly after, department head Halmanskih was given a new political post.

Worker and specialist training will soon begin in Jelgava. The city supports this project because it will offer 300 jobs.

‘One of their main manufacturing forms is military contracts – I know this. But it is only one of many. […] I can say for certain – we will not be making tanks. As I’ve said before – this plant will only include civil production. This is why the plant is being built,’ – says the Chairman of Jelgava City Council Andris Rāviņš.

Transport Ministry is equally excited about this project. Latvijas Dzelzceļš procures wagons from other plants. Procurement of wagons in Latvia is something never considered before.

Unlike Transport Ministry, Defence Minister Raimonds Vejonis is not so sure about this investment.

‘It is hard for me to comment this situation, because this is the first time I’ve heard about such investments. Every piece of investment in Latvia is a good thing, but we should also consider the long-term impact of investments, including state security risks. Such risks should be discussed with specialists – to determine if there are any security risks,’ – says Vejonis.

This project was also evaluated by the Constitution Protection Bureau. The institution does not report any specific conclusions.

‘Deployment of the plant’ activities on Latvian soil points toward possible risks, but not risks for national security. If the plant’s activities are performed in Latvia under the condition that the management of the plant has ties to Russia’s current government, then there may be risks for Latvia’s security,’ – says CPB representative Iveta Maura.


Leave a reply

  1. mike walsh says:

    As I understand it, because of vulnerability to the politicisation of trade agreements exposed by the Ukrainian crisis, Russian policy is that Russian military procurement, as a matter of urgency, becomes independent of the Western manufacturers.

    This should be a matter of concern to EU nations and America. They will no doubt rejoice at their hands not becoming soiled by creating goods for Russian markets.

    Yet, ahead of that EU and American business leaders are already wringing their hands at the loss of trade and the spike in Western unemployment. Yet another calamitous Western inspired own goal.

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    • Seriously says:

      Do you have a comment for every article? Why don’t you read the Russian media instead of the Baltic news since you are such a Putin lover?

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  2. stefans says:

    Don’t do it Latvia!

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  3. Tomasz says:

    Its simple really, good for the Latvian economy, creates jobs, however, routine unannounced inspections should be carried out to check that military equipment is not manufactured at the plant without the government of Latvia and NATO knowing and approving such a scheme, The cynic in me thinks this is just another way of Russia maintaining some sort of inside control over Latvia. I’ve just one question really, Why does Uralvagonzavod want to build in Latvia and not inside Russia itself? I don’t believe for one second its due to Russian speakers or labour costs. Might it be the supplies of western materials and maintaining internal controls within Latvia itself?

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    • Linda says:

      You are correct Tomasz in your cynical assumptions. You’d think that the Russians would be worried about the fine intricacies of their weapons being leaked across the wider world but they’d probably bring in their own workers from Russia thereby swelling the percentage of Russians to Latvians – which will be very useful during periods of voting and other nefarious activities!!

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  4. Tomasz says:

    Linda, you are spot on with your assumption. Russia should not be trusted by anyone anymore.

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