Remote lockouts reportedly stop Russian troops from using stolen Ukrainian farm equipment

According to a report by CNN† Some of the equipment, which comes with a remote locking feature and built-in GPS, was tracked more than 700 miles away in the Zakhan Yurt village of Chechnya.

A source close to the situation told CNN that Russian forces gradually began taking machines away from the dealer after their occupation of Melitopol in March. It reportedly started with two combine harvesters worth $300,000 each, a tractor and a seed drill, until troops removed all 27 pieces of equipment. Some of the equipment went to Chechnya, while others are said to have ended up in a nearby village.

“When the invaders drove the stolen harvesters to Chechnya, they realized they couldn’t even turn them on because the harvesters were locked remotely,” CNN’s source told the outlet.

Not the first time looting backfired on Russian troops

Although the equipment was disabled remotely, the CNN source says Russian troops may be trying to find a way around the bloc as they are in contact with “advisors in Russia trying to circumvent protections”. In addition to farm equipment, Russian troops have also reportedly stolen grain in the area, one of the Ukrainian biggest export

Farm machinery has become surprisingly high-tech, for better or for worse. John Deere, in particular, has been at the center of a discussion about the right to repair, because the software prevents farmers from repairing their equipment themselves. As the company showed in this case of stolen farm equipment, John Deere is free to shut down its machines whenever it wants, although it told Bloomberg in 2020 that it “has never activated this capacity, except in construction equipment in China, where financing conditions require it.” Some farmers have even gone so far as to download illegal John Deere firmware to avoid the clutches of the company.

This is not the first time looting has backfired on Russian forces during the invasion of Ukraine. According to a report by The times, a Ukrainian man has used Apple’s Find My feature — which locates a device using Bluetooth signals that bounce off other nearby Apple devices — to track the movements of Russian troops after they stole his AirPods. He has been able to see their movements on a map and has even seen them as they appeared to be retreating from an attack on the Ukrainian capital Kiev. A researcher in California was similarly able to watch Russian troops invade Ukraine by using a combination of Google Maps and radar images.

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