Paris’ defence ministry on Monday denied that France breached European sanctions by continuing to sell military equipment to Russia after its 2014 annexation of Crimea.
Investigative journalism outfit Disclose reported that around 152 million euros ($167 million) of gear had been approved for export since 2015, citing both “top secret” documents and public sources.
Most of the equipment was “thermal cameras to equip more than 1,000 Russian tanks, as well as navigation systems and infrared sensors for fighter planes and helicopters” manufactured by Thales and Safran, companies whose largest shareholder is the French state, Disclose added.
It highlighted that tanks and aircraft of the types involved had been used in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine since February 24.
After Moscow annexed Crimea in February 2014, the European Union imposed arms sanctions in August the same year.
France went so far as to cancel delivery of two Mistral helicopter carrier ships.
But successive governments “made the most of a chink in the European embargo: it isn’t retroactive,” Disclose charged.
“France complies strictly with its international engagements as concerns exports of military equipment,” Defence Ministry spokesman Herve Grandjean responded in a Twitter post.
Nevertheless, the so-called “grandfather” clause meant that “a contract signed before the annexation of Crimea can run its course… this possibility is clearly provided for in the sanctions regime,” he added.
“No new contracts have been made with Russia since 2014. No deliveries have been made to Russia since the b