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Le Parisien: French company supplies avionics to Russia’s VIP planes violating sanctions

A former executive of PGA Astronics disclosed to Le Parisien that the company equipped and maintained Russian aircraft used by high-ranking officials, including President Vladimir Putin and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
Russian plane IL-96-300
Russian plane IL-96-300, used as the Russian presidential aircraft. Source: Wikipedia, 2015
Le Parisien: French company supplies avionics to Russia’s VIP planes violating sanctions

A French company, PGA Astronics, based in Montierchaume near Châteauroux, has been accused of continuing to equip, modernize, and maintain Russian aircraft despite international sanctions, according to an investigation by Le Parisien.

France, as part of the EU, implemented several rounds of sanctions against Russia in response to Russian aggression in Ukraine. However, not all EU businesses have shown compliance with these sanctions. For example, a German producer of construction materials, Knauf, announced its intention to withdraw from Russia only this month, following investigations of the company’s involvement in construction work in the temporarily Russian-occupied Mariupol.

The Le Parisien’s source, a former executive of the company, reveals that the aircraft in question are not just civilian planes but those used by Russian President Vladimir Putin and several high-ranking officials, including former president Dmitry Medvedev, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and spokesman of the Kremlin Dmitry Peskov.

Putin, Medvedev, Shoigu, and other regime figures can now enjoy this advanced French technology, which provides reliable secret communication for their mobile phones. Thank you, France,” authors of the Le Parisien investigation wrote

The investigation reveals that PGA, a French subsidiary of the American group Astronics, specializes in avionics and supplies the system that manages all onboard electronics from the pilot’s cabin, ranging from cabin lighting to the onboard transmission and communication network. 

The former executive also disclosed to Le Parisien that the company is said to have earned between €4 and €5 million ($ 4,3-5,4 million) from these dealings, which corresponds to the equipment of seven aircraft, including the Il-96 and Sukhoi 100 superjets, which are Russian civil aircraft intended for the highest leadership.

Le Parisien reports that the company has supplied Russia with components used on Russian planes since Moscow’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014.

PGA Astronics allegedly circumvents the embargo by sending its equipment to a former Soviet base near Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. From there, the cargo is directly shipped to Russia. This information was obtained through tracking devices attached to the cargo. 

According to the investigation, the payments to the French firm PGA are processed through Dubai (UAE) to avoid any issues.

When contacted by Le Parisien, PGA Astronics did not respond to requests for comment. 

In March, The European Parliament passed a directive to standardize the enforcement of EU sanctions across member states, criminalizing their violation and circumvention, particularly against Russia. The new directive sets consistent definitions for violations and introduces strong penalties, including prison terms of up to five years and substantial fines, to enhance the effectiveness of sanctions. 

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