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Insider: GRU officer in Brussels funnels military exports to Russia

Just steps from the EU capital, a Russian GRU veteran and sons mastermind a scheme to keep Russia’s military machine rolling with banned Western equipment
Victor Labin Russian GRU brussels sanctions military complex
Victor Labin. Collage by Insider
Insider: GRU officer in Brussels funnels military exports to Russia

Viktor Labin, a Russian military intelligence (GRU) officer living in Brussels just kilometers from EU and NATO headquarters, has supplied indispensable measurement machines to Russian defense contractors for over a decade while avoiding Western sanctions, an investigation by The Insider revealed on 27 January.

The Insider found that the Moscow-based company Sonatek, founded by Viktor Labin’s son Ruslan, provides measurement equipment to dozens of Russian defense companies that critically depend on the imported products.

“Sonatek imports measuring devices from various countries, including Italy, Germany, and the United Kingdom. In Russia, it has not been possible to import substitute such devices, so the Russian military-industrial complex vitally depends on the products supplied by Sonatek,” The Insider reported.

Sonatek at a military exhibition. Credit: Insider.ru

The Insider obtained information that in 2022 Sonatek provided services and equipment to at least 18 enterprises in the Russian defense industry. Sonatek sources high-precision machine tools and measuring devices from various countries, including Italy (Tomelleri Engineering), Germany (Messtechnik), and the United Kingdom (Aberlink).

Russia has failed to produce domestic substitutes for such devices, so the Russian military industrial complex vitally depends on the imported products supplied by Sonatek.

Labin settled in Brussels by 2000, establishing the firm Groupe D’Investissement Financier, which he uses to export the equipment to Russia.

Earlier, he shipped directly to Russia, frequently to his son’s Sonatek company, but in April 2023 began routing the materials through an intermediary in Türkiye with a similar name, GROUPE D’INVESTISSEMENT FINANCIER OSBORNE, according to The Insider.

“Türkiye has become a popular transshipment point for sanctioned goods being smuggled to Russian end users,” The Insider notes, adding that Taiwanese machine tools have also made their way to Russian arms manufacturers via this route.

The Insider met Labin at his Brussels office just 15 minutes from EU headquarters. He claimed he stopped shipments to Russia after sanctions began, contradicting The Insider’s findings.

Labin’s son Roman, who also lives in Brussels, helps manage the business while another son, Ruslan, runs Sonatek in Moscow. Labin Senior’s sons are listed as directors on Groupe d’Investissement Financier official documents.

sanctions military industrial complex Groupe D'Investissement Financier labin brussels
Image: insider.ru

Despite openly cheering Russia’s war on social media, the Labins have avoided sanctions for over ten years.

“I’m an entrepreneur, and neither I nor my brother served in the army,” Ruslan Labin told The Insider, while not denying that Sonatek contracts with 18 Russian defense firms.

Confronted about his GRU ties, Viktor Labin hung up after cursing at The Insider journalist in Russian.

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