By Eduardo Baptista
BEIJING – Chinese drone maker DJI has dismissed as “utterly false” accusations that it is leaking data on Ukrainian military positions to Russia, after a German retailer cited such information as a reason for taking its products off shelves.
The rejection followed Friday’s Twitter revelation of the removal by German electronics and home appliances giant MediaMarkt in response to “information from various sources”, although it gave no details of the information it had.
MediaMarkt said, “In the last few days, we have received more and more information from various sources that the Russian army is using products and data from the Chinese drone supplier DJI for military activities in Ukraine.”
On Wednesday, a spokesperson for the Chinese firm said, “What we have declared as ‘utterly false’ in our statement published yesterday is the claim that DJI is actively supporting the Russian military with hardware and flight data.”
While the company had noticed footage online that suggested the Russian military was using its products, the spokesperson added, it had not been able to confirm this and had no control over the use of its products.
In its Twitter statement on Saturday, DJI had said, “We do not support any use that does harm to people’s lives, rights and interests,” adding, “DJI promotes civilian drone applications that benefit society.”
MediaMarkt, which runs more than 800 stores in 12 European nations and Turkey, did not say what information it had received about DJI.
“As a responsible company, we have taken immediate action and removed the manufacturer from our product range groupwide until further notice,” it said on its official Twitter account on Friday.
MediaMarkt was replying to a user who accused DJI of leaking GPS data of Ukrainian military positions to Russia.
“We will closely examine further indications and developments,” it added.
It called the move “a clear signal for the values that have the highest priority for us”, which it saw come under attack by Russia’s “aggressive” war against Ukraine.
Users of the Chinese drone giant’s products range from photography hobbyists to U.S. fire departments.
The firm has found itself in an uncomfortable position after Russia invaded Ukraine more than a month ago in what Moscow calls a “special military operation”.
While Western firms have pulled out of Russia in protest, DJI has stayed on, like many Chinese companies, taking a cue from Beijing’s stance of refraining from criticism of Moscow over the invasion.
Ukrainian officials and citizens have accused DJI of leaking data on the Ukrainian military to Russia.
On March 16, Mykhailo Fedorov, the minister of digital transformation, said he had asked the firm’s founder, Frank Wang, in a letter to cut ties with Russia, accusing its troops of using DJI products for the navigation of missiles that kill Ukrainian civilians.
The next day, DJI responded on Twitter that its products, designed for civilian use, were inappropriate for military missions.