Chinese Drone Maker DJI Halts Sales in Russia and Ukraine

The company’s drones were reportedly used in the war to provide surveillance and plan attacks.
ukraine war drones dji
A drone deployed during a demonstration at the Los Angeles Fire Department in 2019. The unmanned vehicles have been used in emergency responses but also conflict. Photo: ROBYN BECK / AFP

DJI, the world’s largest drone manufacturer, has suspended all business activities in Russia and Ukraine, two months after Putin’s aggression thrust the Chinese company into the middle of a global conflict.

DJI on Tuesday said it would “temporarily suspend” its business operations in both Russia and Ukraine while it reviewed “compliance requirements.” 

The decision came more than a month after the Ukrainian government asked the drone maker to stop doing business in Russia and remotely block the country from using DJI’s drones in Ukraine. In response, the company told the Ukrainian government it could set up a no-fly zone for its drones in Ukraine but that it would affect all DJI aerial vehicles in the country, not just those flown by the Russian military.

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The company’s drones have been reportedly used by both Ukrainian and Russian forces to monitor each other’s troops and plot attacks. Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov last month said Russia used DJI products to “navigate their missile to kill civilians,” a claim that DJI rejected.

In suspending its business in both countries, however, DJI seemed intent to avoid seeming to tip the scale in anyone’s favor. 

“DJI opposes all use of our products in combat operations, which has been documented by forces on both sides of the war in Ukraine,” a spokesperson for DJI told VICE World News. 

And while the company could technically set up geofencing throughout Ukraine, it would not affect drones that are not connected to the internet, the spokesperson said.

In a statement last week, the company said it “absolutely deplores” any use of its products to cause harm and that DJI had only ever made products for civilian use.

The use of DJI drones by soldiers in the Ukraine war has put the company in a tough spot. The U.S. has sanctioned Russia for invading Ukraine and threatened to punish people and companies enabling Russian aggression, but China considers Russia a key strategic partner and has refused to condemn the invasion. 

In China, companies are under pressure to toe Beijing’s political position or risk igniting nationalist wrath and a consumer backlash. In February, the Chinese ride-hailing company Didi abruptly reversed its decision to shut its operations in Russia after it came under attack on Chinese social media for pulling out of the country. Didi said the withdrawal from Russia—and Kazakhstan—was a purely business decision, but some Chinese social media users accused the company of siding with the West in the Ukraine conflict.

Previously, in 2020, the U.S. government put DJI on a blacklist of Chinese companies to deny it access to U.S. technology, calling the company a national security concern. The next year, the U.S. put further restrictions on the company by banning Americans from buying or selling its stocks, although the move was largely symbolic because the company isn’t publicly traded.