Among the European companies that have been exporting weapons to Russia since 2014 after the corresponding embargo, France is the pacemaker. In eight years, it managed to earn 152 million euros from trade. The closest competitors are Germany (122 million euros; among the offending companies are Techlube and Zoller) and Italy (22 million euros, among the offending companies is the automaker Iveco).
As you can see, the French military-industrial complex business has learned to work cynically, but systematically and effectively, despite the sanctions imposed on Russia after the annexation of Crimea and the war it unleashed in eastern Ukraine.
The work of the Thales company — which supplied the Russian army with Catherine FC thermal imagers (installed on T72B2 and Bakhcha BMD-4 tanks) and navigation aircraft systems (on Su-30SM fighters) — serves as a paragon.
However, Thales, more than a quarter of which is owned by... the French government, is not the only one competing for the right to supply the Russian army, which kills Ukrainians and destroys the country's infrastructure day by day.
The brand SAFRAN — owned by the French group of companies specializing in the design and production of aerospace and defense equipment or its components — is hardly mentioned in the Ukrainian mass media.
The concern was created in 2005 thanks to the merger of two other companies, SNECMA and SAGEM.
Since then, the company has specialized in three main areas: aviation engines and equipment, space, and defense. For Russia, all these are technological tidbits that can compensate for its technological (but, fortunately, not civilizational) backwardness.
In both Thales and SAFRAN, the French government is a majority shareholder (25.67% and 11.2% of the shares respectively). In the case of SAFRAN, all other shares are owned by private foundations and owners.
Sanctions are in effect… not
It is known for certain that SAFRAN supplied sensor modules to the Russian Federation in 2016. At the same time, the company knew exactly the final recipient — the Air Force of the Russian Federation. This follows from the fact that the firm specifically indicated the final recipient for obtaining the permission of the Inter-Ministerial Committee.
The decision of this Committee specifies that the supply is carried out according to the contract concluded before August 1, 2014. However, as is known, delivery under "old contracts" (that is, agreements that were signed even before the occupation of Crimea) is a common scheme for circumventing sanctions by European companies, in particular, French ones.
Sensor modules are not the only components that SAFRAN sold to the Russian army. The concern, through its subsidiary Safran Vectronix AG (Switzerland), supplied Russian enterprises with high-precision laser rangefinders.
One of them was discovered in the Russian optical-electronic surveillance complex "Ironiya", manufactured in 2019. The Vectronix markings, model DMC-SX 5000 and probably the date of manufacture (09.18) are easy to spot on this piece of equipment.
In a combat situation, the "Ironiya" complex allows you to determine day and night targets for destruction — people and equipment — and transmit their exact coordinates. It is obvious that the delivery was made in 2018-2019.
In search of justice
The team of "Total Isolation of Russia" initiative lawyers will submit a petition to the European Commission on July 12. The activists will present the history of SAFRAN supplies of high-precision compasses for installation in the Ironiya complex in 2018 that were conducted through a subsidiary company.
The lawyers’ next appeal to the EC will refer to clear violations of EU sanctions by this company: the supply of sensor modules to Russian Air Force enterprises in 2015 cannot be interpreted in any other way.
As with Thales, the SAFRAN trial must hit home two messages. First of all, sooner or later, every illegal supplier of military-industrial complex products to Russia will be punished. Secondly, cooperation with a toxic aggressor state will inevitably result in scandals and severe reputational losses.
There should be a blank in the place of Russia on the world business map.