Despite recent US sanctions, companies in Russia and Crimea were still able to get their hands on Microsoft software. According to Reuters, the Microsoft software was sold via a third party which is why it was so easy for the Russian companies to gain access. The US put sanctions forbidding US-based companies from doing business in Russia, due to Russia's hostile annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
There is no evidence that Microsoft had a direct connection to selling their software, so it is surmised that the companies bought the Microsoft software through third-party sellers. Furthermore, fake user information could be given to Microsoft to register the software online. A Microsoft representative emailed Reuters on the issue:
“Microsoft has a strong commitment to complying with legal requirements and we have been looking into this matter in recent weeks. We have robust trade compliance processes around the world to help ensure that our partners comply with all conditions including immediate halting of suspected improper sales by partners, and strong measures to try to prevent banned customers from accessing and using our products and services.”
According to the Reuters findings, it is estimated that approximately 5,000 Microsoft products amounting to a little over $1 million. Although, the amount of Microsoft products involved could be much more, but Reuters uncovered that the software could be used by foreign companies that are restricted by US sanctions for much more sinister reasons.