Russian propagandists lament that the country’s partial mobilization has turned into a race for combat boots. Newly drafted Russians receive poor-quality uniforms at military recruitment centers, so they must find something better on their own.
The Kremlin-controlled media outlet RIA Novosti screenshot reads: “While he is taking training courses, the girl runs around the city looking for the most necessary things. According to her, the shelves are rapidly emptying, and prices are rising. Fortunately, she has found at least combat boots. They cost 5,000 rubles.”
On the Russian market, local companies produce military boots, but the raw materials are imported from abroad. Russian enterprises still have the capacity to produce combat boots, despite the occasional complaints from Russians about their scarcity and excessive prices.
Shoe manufacturer with ties to Kremlin
While viewing photos of Russian soldiers taken during their invasion of Ukraine, it is evident that many are wearing identical combat boots models. They have the same sole pattern and design elements.
The Rostov-based shoe manufacturer Donobuv makes most of these boots. Since 1994, this company has been one of the leading suppliers of military and special shoes to the Russian Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Internal Affairs, and Emergency Control Ministry.
Photos depict the combat boots made by the Rostov-based shoe manufacturer Donobuv. They cost 3,000 rubles on the official website.
The company regularly participated in government procurement tenders worth hundreds of millions of rubles. For instance, it concluded a 36 million ruble contract to supply boots to the Federal Guard Service of the Russian Federation. It has to fulfill the order by 31 December 2022. In addition, the company signed a similar contract with Moscow’s military unit №95006.
It is currently impossible to trace any government procurements because they are no longer publicly available. Nonetheless, it is evident that the enterprise is so crucial to the Russian state that all Donobuv employees are exempt from mobilization since the company is considered a defense enterprise.
In addition, this exemption list also includes PJSC Rostvertol (produces military aircraft and helicopters), PJSC Beriev Aircraft Company (manufactures aircraft), and PJSC Granit (repairs air defense systems and other facilities for Russia’s Air Defense Forces).
Donobuv, on the other hand, does not operate independently. Other enterprises assist it in making shoes. For example, Komplekt, a shoe factory in Kabardino-Balkaria, announced in May 2022 that it was expanding production. The company also manufactures combat boots for the Special Purpose Mobile Unit (OMON), the Russian National Guard (Rosgvardia), police, and navy forces. Donobuv is among Komplekt’s many large clients.
Raw materials from Germany and India
According to publicly available information, Rostov-based Donobuv generated 790 million rubles in revenues in 2021.
But who sustains the Russian company that makes combat boots for Russian soldiers?
Before Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine, the German company Salamander and the Indian firm Homera Tanning supplied the majority of raw materials. Both companies sold 20,000 kg of leather to Russia in January 2022, according to Importgenius.
Salamander withdrew from the Russian market following the outbreak of the full-scale war, whereas Homera Tanning did not.
Another Indian company, Aaisha International, has continued working with Russia. According to data from Russian websites that provide product conformity certificates (COC), between August and October 2022, Homera Tanning and Aaisha International supplied leather to Donobuv.
They also delivered it to Stellar, a Moscow-based leather company. In particular, Aaisha International provided Donobuv with 87 tons of leather worth $159,000 in August 2022. It shares the same registered address as Homera Tanning.
And what is known about this Stellar company? This Russian company is contractually linked to the Indian company Homera Tanning and shares personnel with it.
Rizwan Shariq is currently the owner and director of Stellar. The same person holds the position of Marketing Director at Homera Tanning concurrently.
Moreover, the German company GUMMIWERK SCHOENEBECK GMBH made the rubber for Donobuv’s shoe soles. According to publicly available information, Donobuv founded the German company that operates out of Schönebeck, a town near the city of Magdeburg in Saxony-Anhalt. And the Director of the German company is Vladimir Shiryaev, Nina Pikova‘s son-in-law. Pikova now manages Donobuv.
In August 2022, the US Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, Adewale Adeyemo, stated that there is no evidence that India aids Russia in circumventing sanctions. It turns out that they now have all the evidence. Here, one can trace a direct connection. Indian and German companies export materials to Russia. The Russian company produces combat boots for soldiers who rush to kill Ukrainians on the frontline.
With this information, the US can already include all the companies mentioned above in its sanctions list.
Anton Mykytiuk is a member of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine Civil Oversight Council and an expert at the Economic Security Council of Ukraine.
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