The Russian invasion of Ukraine prompted a swift response from the international community, with multiple countries imposing damaging economic sanctions on Russia as a means of non-violent intervention. Many countries imposed export restrictions on products or components of products considered to be dual-use, with both civilian and military functions. An example of this was seen in late February when the US Department of Commerce imposed restrictions on tech exports to Russia, citing concerns of use in military equipment. The list of restricted products included semiconductors, computers, telecommunications equipment, sensors, lasers and other technologies.
Despite these broad measures, export licenses are often granted on a case-by-case basis if items are deemed necessary for humanitarian and civilian needs. Medical devices in tech-heavy markets—such as diagnostic imaging, ophthalmology, cardiovascular and patient monitoring devices—often serve an essential purpose and have few domestic substitutes available within the Russian market. With the exception of laser-containing devices, exports of many of these devices are expected to bypass recent tech sanctions. However, supply issues will arise from the reduced buying power of the ruble and rising import costs.
Russia has historically made efforts to bolster its domestic medical device industry and reduce its need for imports. In 2015, the Russian government restricted state procurement of a list of medical devices to domestic sources, provided two or more bids had been submitted from manufacturers in Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) countries. The list largely comprised lower-tech hospital and surgical supplies. It was further expanded in 2016 and last year to include some biochemical analysers, clinical microscopes, and surgical ultrasound and laser devices. Despite these efforts, many high-tech devices are still imported to meet the demands of Russia’s healthcare system. Developing these technologies domestically is often limited by an expensive and slow research and development (R&D) process, meaning that imports are necessary to fill gaps in local supply.
As economic sanctions continue to mount, Russia will likely explore cheaper alternative brands to supplement gaps in its medical device supply. Imports will remain an option for devices that are deemed essential, but financial pressures will undoubtedly reduce purchasing in the near term.