Yesterday, the Department of the Treasury announced a new round of sanctions against Russian citizens and businesses that have been involved with the Ukraine conflict and for AK fans, the news is not good. Molot-Oruzhie, OOO, or Molot for short, has been added to the list of sanctioned entities resulting in a ban on future imports of the RPK-based Vepr rifles. In many ways, it’s the final nail in the Russian AK coffin here in the US as Molot was the last company left after Kalashnikov Concern was added to the list back in 2014.
According to Treasury’s press release, Molot was allegedly helping Kalashnikov Concern dodge sanctions by falsifying invoices:
Molot-Oruzhie, OOO manufactures ordnance and accessories and is located in the Russian Federation. In 2016, previously-designated Kalashnikov Concern advised a foreign company to use Molot-Oruzhie, OOO to falsify invoices in order to circumvent U.S. and EU sanctions. Molot-Oruzhie is being designated for operating in the arms or related material sector of the Russian Federation and for acting or purporting to act for on behalf of, directly or indirectly, Kalashnikov Concern.
Like many of you, my initial, reflexive reaction to this news was anger and disappointment. After all, how could the “pro-gun” Trump administration be responsible for a sweeping import ban? How dare they sanction Molot! But after reading the press release and considering Molot’s financial status, I find myself far less surprised and less frustrated with the US government.
You see, Molot has been in a bit of a financial bind for the past several years. They’ve been in and out of bankruptcy and have been looking at potential buyout options. They were even set to hit the auction block back in March. The problem is that few people or companies are well positioned to make the purchase, with Kalashnikov Concern serving as a notable exception. Yesterday’s news only adds to growing speculation that Kalashnikov Concern has at least some business interest in Molot – enough that Molot would be willing to assume significant risk to help its besieged counterpart. When Modern Rifleman broke the news of the 2014 sanctions against Kalashnikov Concern, I wrongly assumed that Molot was included as well. That’s how convincing the rumors were. It turns out that Molot was in the clear at that time, but things have changed since then.
Even if Molot isn’t owned or part-owned by Kalashnikove Concern, they’re really the ones we should all be blaming here (along with the Russian government). As a presumably private company with no known ties to the Russian government or individuals directly involved with the Ukrainian conflict, Molot was spared from previous sanctions. Their rifles have been flowing into the US and the line has expanded to include some highly interesting configurations. Yet despite all of this, they chose to act out against the sanctions against Kalashnikov Concern and are now suffering the consequences. Molot’s financial challenges notwithstanding, it takes weapons-grade stupidity to think fudging invoices for a sanctioned organization would be a good idea.
Unfortunately, the future for Russian firearms looks bleak. Russian leadership has shown no desire to scale back operations or pull out of Ukraine and the Trump administration has been clear that sanctions will not be relaxed until Russia’s bad behavior in both Ukraine and Syria comes to an end. While current restrictions do not affect the major ammunition manufacturers, I would hope that they see yesterday’s move against Molot as a severe warning that the new administration has no plans to back down from the Obama-era restrictions.