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France 24
France 24

France’s TotalEnergies faces legal case for allegedly fuelling Russian bombers

File photo of TotalEnergies headquarters in the La Défense business district near Paris taken May 28, 2021. © Christophe Archambault, AFP

Two NGOs have filed a complaint against French energy giant TotalEnergies for "complicity in war crimes" for allegedly helping fuel Russian planes that have bombed Ukraine, according to French media reports.

The France-based Darwin Climax Coalition and Ukrainian group Razom We Stand handed the file to the national anti-terrorist prosecutor, who investigates war crime allegations, on Thursday.

The two NGOs accuse the French energy giant of exploiting a gas field used to manufacture kerosene used by Russian planes in their bombings in Ukraine, particularly in the March 16, 2022 strike on a Mariupol theatre sheltering civilians which killed around 600, according to French daily Le Monde.

TotalEnergies rejected the accusations, calling them calling them "outrageous and defamatory", in a statement to Le Monde.

Representatives of Razom We Stand and Darwin Climax Coalitions confirmed to Le Monde and AFP that they have filed a complaint against TotalEnergies, alleging that the company "contributed to providing the Russian government with the means necessary for the commission of war crimes".

TotalEnergies until recently owned a 49% share in Terneftegaz, a company that extracts gas from the Termokarstovoye field in northern Russia.

The other 51% was held by Russian company Novatek, in which the French firm also owns a direct 19.4% stake.

An August 2022 investigation by London-based NGO Global Witness said gas condensate from Total’s Termokarstovoye field was transported across Russia for refining before being shipped as jet fuel to Russian Air Force bases near Ukraine.

They included bases for Russia's Sukhoi Su-34 fighter-bombers. "The pilots of these warplanes have been accused by international experts and the Ukrainian government of indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas, including a 3 March strike on Chernihiv, near Kyiv, which reportedly killed 47 civilians," said the Global Witness investigation.

Following the publication of a Le Monde report on the Global Witness investigation, TotalEnergies said it had on July 18 sold its 49% share in Terneftegaz to Novatek.

France cannot 'condemn the invasion and remain inactive'

In its statement to Le Monde refuting the allegations, TotalEnergies added that unstable condensates produced by Terneftegaz had been "exported abroad" and therefore could not have been used by the Russian army as fuel for its planes.

 Lawyers from the two NGOs told AFP it was time for multinationals to be held to account.

"Justice should not be blind when faced with the indirect but essential support of multinationals to the war effort, and to the considerable profits that they continue to enjoy after the invasion of Ukraine," it said.

"France cannot in the same breath condemn the invasion, and remain inactive in the face of the behaviours propping it up," lawyers William Bourdon, Vincent Brengarth and Henri Thulliez said.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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