Bellingcat investigation suggests Auchan retailer supplied goods to Russian military

17 February, 02:29 PM
Auchan helped military enlistment offices mobilize conscripts from among its employees (Photo:rau.ua)

Auchan helped military enlistment offices mobilize conscripts from among its employees (Photo:rau.ua)

The Russian division of France’s Auchan supermarket chain has been supplying goods to Russian invasion forces in Ukraine since the start of the full-scale war, a joint investigation by the Insider, Le Monde, and Bellingcat revealed on Feb. 17.

Journalists from the three groups noted that the supplies to the military were positioned as "humanitarian aid" and consisted of both goods from Auchan's warehouses and goods collected by volunteers at Auchan stores in various Russian regions.

In some regions, deliveries were organized in direct cooperation with local authorities.

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The investigation also found that in addition to supplying goods, Auchan helped military enlistment offices mobilize conscripts from among its employees.

After President Volodymyr Zelenskyy asked French companies to leave the Russian market in March, Auchan argued: "We bake fresh bread in our stores every day for Ukrainians and Russians, which is vital now."

By the time of this statement, the authors of the investigation argue, Auchan had already provided support not only to its employees but also to the Russian military.

For instance, on March 15, 2022, Natalia Zeltser, the controller of Auchan St. Petersburg, sent a letter to her colleagues asking them to "collect a transfer for humanitarian aid." The letter was accompanied by a list, from which it is easy to see that all these goods are intended for men (the minimum sock size on the list is 25, which corresponds to shoe size 40), there are cigarettes (which are never supplied as humanitarian aid), lighters, razors, but nothing for women and children.

The amount of goods (1,000 tubes of toothpaste, 500 lighters) indicates that there were many recipients, enough for one or two battalions. The total cost of this March "aid" shipment was 2 million rubles ($26,860).

Later, in this correspondence, Seltzer wrote to the central office and asked to register the "humanitarian aid" as a purchase by 10 legal entities. The Moscow office replied with a list of 10 legal entities.

Russian Investigative outlet the Insider contacted the heads of these companies that received the humanitarian aid, and some of them made no secret of the fact the “humanitarian aid” had been sent to the Russian military.

For example, Sergey Poma, director of MTK, and Galina Baranova, director of Energia-3000, admitted that the aid was supplied to the Russian military, but refused to provide details.

According to international law, only aid to civilians is considered humanitarian aid during international conflicts. Supporting one of the warring parties could bring Auchan under sanctions.

Apparently, not only Auchan, but also the Leroy Merlin home improvement and gardening holding is involved in the supply of goods to the occupied territories. At least in a video from the city of Mariupol published in December, members of the Young Guard of United Russia can be seen unloading identical pallets with the Leroy Merlin branding.

Auchan supported Russia's attack on Ukraine not only with so-called humanitarian aid, but also by helping the Russian authorities fight draft evaders. Auchan collected and transmitted data on its employees to military enlistment offices (besides the data on employees' military IDs began to be collected even before the full-scale invasion began in January 2022) and then, after the mobilization was announced, employees were served with summonses and it was suggested that they resign right at their workplace.

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