Macron denies France violated European sanctions with Russia arms sales

By Anadolu Agency

France’s president on Tuesday denied allegations that the government had breached European sanctions by approving the export of 152 million euros ($167 million) worth of military equipment to Russia since 2015, which Moscow is now reportedly using in its war against Ukraine.

“France has complied in accordance with its commitments to international law,” Emmanuel Macron said in response to a question on whether he was okay with the fact that Paris has delivered military equipment to Russia, even as he is trying to broker a diplomatic solution to end the war.

During a visit to a reception center for refugees in the region of Maine et Loire in western France, the head of state was confronted by the media on the findings of investigative journalism outfit Disclose, which established that between 2015 and 2020, France had secretly armed Russia.

Macron said the decision on the delivery regarding the arms contracts was taken by his predecessor, Francois Hollande. Some of these contracts were suspended, as they were not consistent with international law and the situation at the time in 2014, when Russia invaded and subsequently annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine.

The equipment that was delivered to Moscow consisted of small quantities and marked the end of the contract prior to the embargo, he said.

On Monday, the non-profit investigative media platform ‘Disclose’ leaked documents from the latest French Parliamentary report on arms exports, which revealed that France had issued 76 export licenses for war material to Russia since 2015. The Hollande and Macron governments delivered the arms even after the European Union imposed an arms embargo in 2014 in the wake of Moscow’s illegal annexation of Crimea.

The report by Disclose claimed that the French government took advantage of a legal loophole in the embargo and continued to carry out the obligations of the arms contract since the embargo was “not retroactive” and only applied to new contracts.

Russian military modernized with French equipment

Although President Hollande cancelled the sale of two Mistral helicopter carriers to Russia in 2015 under pressure from European countries and the US, the French government in the following years decided to pursue the delivery under the arms contracts, which were signed before the embargo.

“At no point did the French government raise any doubts over the potential use that could be made of them,” the report said, concluding that by continuing arms deliveries until 2019, “it is possible France handed one further military advantage to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin.”

It corroborated this claim by identifying certain supplies to the Russian army by French defense giants Safran and Thales, which were the main beneficiaries of these contracts. The French government has major stakes in the two aerospace and defense companies.

These include state-of-the-art navigation systems for 60 Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jets, 55 thermal cameras for Russian tanks, 800 Catherine XP thermal imaging cameras with night vision to identify human targets manufactured by Thales, Matis thermal cameras for tanks, and infrared imaging systems for the Ka-52 helicopters produced by Safran.

While most of these pieces of equipment are not lethal, they are meant for modernizing the Russian military and could be already used in the Ukraine war. Military experts have detected the use of this French state-of-the-art equipment on combat planes and tanks by the Russian armed forces in its bombing campaigns and making advancements towards the capital Kyiv.​​​​​​​