A Montreal man has pleaded guilty in the United States to helping smuggle electronic components to Russia, where some of those parts were used by the Russian military in its invasion of Ukraine.

Nikolay Goltsev, 38, pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit export control violations in Federal Court in New York City Tuesday, along with one of his co-conspirators, Salimdzhon Nasriddinov, 53, a U.S. resident.

The pair used two front companies to purchase electronic components with both civilian and military uses — known as dual-use technologies — from U.S. manufacturers and distributers, American prosecutors said. The men then used front companies in other countries, such as Turkey, Hong Kong, India, China and the United Arab Emirates, to hide the real destination of the components.

“The defendants in this case orchestrated a sophisticated, illegal scheme to smuggle electronic components to Russia for use in its invasion of Ukraine,” Christie Curtis, acting assistant director of the FBI in New York, said in a statement. “By using front companies, they sought to disguise their treachery but were ultimately exposed and brought to justice. These cases are critical because they undermine the global sanctions regime designed to isolate adversarial nations and protect international security.”

Some of the electronics shipped through the scheme were recovered from Russian tanks, helicopters, drones, missiles and other military equipment seized on the battlefield in Ukraine, according to U.S authorities.

Prosecutors say both men knew about the military applications of the electronic components. In a communication intercepted by U.S. authorities, the two men discussed the possibility that one of their shipments had been detained by U.S. officials because of Ukrainian allegations that parts from the same U.S. manufacturer were being used in Russian bombs.

“We need to figure out why they keep holding the package,” Goltsev wrote in a text message to Nasriddinov. “I don’t really understand how they figured (it) out.”

In February 2023, Nasriddinov wrote to Goltsev to wish him a happy Defender of the Fatherland Day, a Russian holiday that celebrates Russian and Soviet soldiers and veterans. In his response, Goltsev wrote that they were “defending it in the way that we can.”

With Tuesday’s guilty pleas, “all three defendants have acknowledged their involvement in their scheme to provide more than $7 million worth of material support to the Kremlin in its inhumane attacks on Ukraine. Nikolay Goltsev, Salimdzhon Nasriddinov and their co-conspirator co-ordinated the deployment of over 300 shipments of restricted electronics that were ultimately used on the Russian battlefield,” Ivan J. Arvelo, special agent in charge at Homeland Security Investigations New York, said in a statement.

Goltsev’s wife, Kristina Puzyreva, pleaded guilty in February to conspiracy to launder the proceeds of the export scheme. She is scheduled to be sentenced this month.

The couple lived in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue before their arrest in Brooklyn last November, during a trip to visit Nasriddinov.

According to court documents, a pre-sentence report found that Goltsev was “controlling” of Puzyreva, 32, and isolated her.

However, in a sentencing memorandum filed with a U.S. federal court on Monday, prosecutors argued that Puzyreva acted independently and knew what she was doing.

In a text message to Goltsev, after a May 2023 drone attack on Moscow, Puzyreva wrote: “What is Putin waiting for. He needs to destroy Ukraine,” before describing Ukrainians as “losers” and saying she hates them while using an ethnic slur.

Prosecutors are seeking a 24-month sentence for Puzyreva. She has also agreed to forfeit $351,000.

Prosecutors say they have seized nearly US$1.7 million from accounts linked to the scheme.

Goltsev and Nasriddinov, who initially faced 10 charges, could each face up to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to the single charge of conspiracy to commit export control violations, prosecutors say.