France accused of exporting bombs and aircraft to Russia after Crimea invasion and EU arms embargo

France has been accused of continuing to issue arms export licences to Russia after the EU prohibited arms sales to the country in 2014

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The French government issued more than 70 arms export licences to Moscow between 2015 and 2020, despite the EU imposing an embargo on weapon sales to Russia in 2014, a report claims.

The 2014 EU embargo prohibited arms sales to Russia and was actioned in response to the Kremlin's annexation of Crimea and the proclamation of the Donbas separatist republics.

The media website Disclose alleged that French companies sent military equipment to Russia worth £127million and exported thermal imaging cameras for 1,000 Russian tanks after the 2014 embargo.

This comes as Russia's President Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February, attacking civilians with missiles in multiple airstrikes on buildings such as hospitals and theatres.

The Investigate Europe group also released a report which claimed, out of the 10 EU member states which broke the 2014 embargo, France accounted for 44 percent of sales of military equipment to Russia.

France's arms exports to Putin's regime include rockets, torpedoes, bombs, missiles and explosive charges, according to the independent group's probe.

Destroyed Russian tanks are seen, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in the Sumy region, Ukraine, March 7, 2022.
Destroyed Russian tanks are seen, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in the Sumy region, Ukraine, March 7, 2022.
A view shows the remains of a missile at a bus terminal, as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine March 4, 2022. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko
A view shows the remains of a missile at a bus terminal, as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine March 4, 2022. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

The French Armed Forces Ministry responded to the reports, saying France “allowed the execution of certain contracts concluded before 2014”, which is permitted under the terms of the embargo.

The French government said the “residual flow” of weapons had since “gradually died out".

The other countries which, according to public data analysed by Investigate Europe, sent military equipment to Russia are Germany, Italy, Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Finland, Slovakia and Spain.

Current French President Emmanuel Macron has formed a strong relationship with Russia's Vladimir Putin in recent years.

The Frenchman was among the last Western leaders to accept that the Kremlin's move towards an invasion of Ukraine was happening.

Even since the invasion, he has kept up regular phone calls with Moscow as he seeks to broker a peace deal.