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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Counterfeit Kalashnikov Makers Come Under Fire

The government is fighting to stop the unlicensed manufacture of the Kalashnikov assault rifle in other countries, 60 years after the weapon went into production.

Global production of the world's most abundant firearm "creates the possibility in a series of countries to avoid responsibility for what is basically the production of counterfeit goods," Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said in an interview in Izhevsk, in the western Ural Mountains. "We will, of course, fight for our rights."

The country's targeting of counterfeit Kalashnikovs underscores the success of the brand since Mikhail Kalashnikov first began to design a weapon while lying wounded in a hospital bed during World War II.

In 1947, his work culminated in the AK-47, the most successful assault rifle in history, for which the Soviet Union granted production licenses to friendly states.

When the permits started expiring in the late 1980s and early 1990s, production continued unabated as the Soviet Union collapsed. Currently, there are about 30 factories worldwide, including plants in China, Poland and Bulgaria.

Russia accounted for just 10 percent of global Kalashnikov production last year, said Vladimir Grodetsky, general director of Izhevsk-based Izhmash, a factory that makes Kalashnikovs.

"When you see that there's a huge fight against piracy over CDs and DVDs, and in such an important area of production our rights are being violated, of course it's insulting," Grodetsky said in an interview.

Rosoboronexport, the country's state arms exporter, is working with governments to resolve the issue, said Alexander Uzhanov, a company spokesman. He would not comment on Russian media reports that the company had filed international lawsuits over production.

Russia is the world's third-largest arms exporter, after the United States and France, and is the biggest supplier of weapons to developing nations, according to the U.S. Congressional Research Service. Russia exported $6.5 billion of arms in 2006.

The government now plans to regain market share by promoting the homegrown values of Russian Kalashnikovs over foreign-made versions.

"The quality of machine guns made in Russia is much better," Kudrin said. The Russian-made original carries a premium overseas, costing as much as five-times more than a non-Russian gun in Asia, Afghanistan and Latin America, he said.

Foreign-made weapons are "far inferior" to those produced in Russia, said Mikhail Kalashnikov, now 87.

"We've tested them dozens of times and we see that it's just cheap junk that should be thrown away," he said.