▲ Shahed drones of the Russian army attacking Kyiv, Ukraine

China, the world's largest producer of unmanned aerial vehicles (drones), has imposed export controls on key drone components and other parts of drones, making it difficult for Russia to produce military drones, US Newsweek reported, citing the Russian daily Kommersant.

According to reports, Chinese authorities have imposed restrictions on drone exports since the beginning of this month, severely complicating Russia's procurement of drones and causing shortages of many drone components, including thermal imaging equipment.

Earlier, at the beginning of last month, China announced in a statement from the Central Military Commission and others that from the first of this month, drones of certain grades, drone engines, infrared imaging equipment, communication equipment, and "anti-drone" equipment to counter drone attacks will be allowed to be exported only with a license.

While these Chinese agencies said the action was "not aimed at any particular country," "there is an increased risk that civilian drones will be diverted for military purposes. China has notified relevant countries of the move."

Chinese authorities reportedly took the move after they were pressured by the U.S. government to send Chinese companies to Russia with drones and other war materials.

China has maintained friendly relations with Russia since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, but has remained neutral about the war itself.

The war in Ukraine has been dubbed the first "drone war" in history, and both sides are massively using drones for a wide range of purposes.

Russia frequently uses Iranian-made Shahed 1/131 drones to carry out self-destruct attacks on Ukrainian cities and infrastructure.

However, China, which dominates the global market for finished drone products and afterparts, is dealing a blow to Russia as it intensively restricts exports of large drones and related components, such as agricultural ones that can be used for military use.

Samuel Vendett of the Center for Naval Analysis, a U.S. think tank, said China's restrictions on the export of drones and related components have become a "hotly debated issue" for Russian drone-related sectors and institutions.

"The real impact of the (China's) drone export restrictions on the Russian (drone) market is the current surge in prices of Chinese-made drones and drone components that are already in Russia," Vendett explained.

Steve Wright, a British drone expert, pointed out that drones require a huge amount of electronic equipment, and that Russia has tried and failed to have its own procurement capabilities in this area.

"It's a very interesting case of how firmly China has a grip on drone technology," he said, "and in short, the Chinese authorities have dried up and killed a large part of the drone market in Russia and Western countries."

(Photo = AP, Yonhap News)