The French supermarket Auchan has been delivering goods to the Russian army in the occupied territories of Ukraine from the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion.
Auchan supplied goods to the invading Russian troops under the guise of “humanitarian aid.” So, Auchan not only remained in the Russian market but significantly helped the troops which invaded Ukraine and waged an all-out war.
This information was revealed by an investigation by The Insider in collaboration with Le Monde and Bellingcat. According to the investigators, the so-called “humanitarian aid” included both things from Auchan’s warehouses and goods gathered by volunteers in stores across Russia.
Auchan refused to withdraw from the Russian market
“In certain areas, Auchan deliveries were coordinated directly with local officials. In addition to supplying goods, Auchan helped military enlistment offices recruit mobilized people from among its employees,” the statement said.
After the full-scale invasion began, the French Auchan remained in Russia, stating that “it is not our decision to abandon our staff, their families, and our customers.”
Authorities discovered that by the time this remark was made, Auchan had already supplied assistance to its employees and the Russian military.
How have Auchan’s activities been disclosed?
The media drew attention to a letter dated March 15, 2022, from Natalia Zeltser, the controller of Auchan St. Petersburg. All of the items in so-called “humanitarian” aid are, for one reason or another, aimed at men.
For example, the list’s minimum sock size is 25, which equates to a shoe size of 40. Cigarettes, lighters, and razors are also provided as humanitarian aid, but nothing for women and children.
The quantity of items (1,000 tubes of toothpaste, 500 lighters) suggests many receivers, perhaps enough for one or two battalions. The overall cost of this March batch of “aid” was 2 million rubles, according to The Insider.
Seltzer writes to the central office in the email obtained by the editorial office, requesting that the “humanitarian aid” be registered as a purchase by ten legal organizations. The Moscow office responded by providing a list of ten legal organizations.
The “humanitarian” aid was paid for, and The Insider has invoices from these legal corporations to prove it. However, Elmira Ivanova, the logistics manager of Auchan St. Petersburg, stated that Auchan provided these things free of charge from their stock. However, she clarified that she did not know whether the final recipients were military or citizens.
Coordinated supplies of Russian invading forces
The Insider spoke with the CEOs of the ten companies that received humanitarian aid; some did not try to hide anything. Sergey Poma, director of MTK LLC, and Galina Baranova, director of Energia-3000 LLC, acknowledged that the help was sent to the Russian military but refused to disclose further details.
The companies chosen to legalize supplies to the military are interconnected: they all serve the St. Petersburg State Unitary Enterprise Passazhazyravtotrans, which, in turn, belongs to the city’s Committee for Transport.
“Auchan has used not only its St. Petersburg stores to supply the invading Russian forces. This is evidenced by the fact that the deliveries were coordinated with the Moscow office and that in other regions, aid was also collected on the territory of Auchan-owned shopping centers.
For example, in Samara, Rybinsk, and Vladimir, collection points for “humanitarian aid for Donbas” were located on the territory of Auchan stores, – the report says.
Auchan may be subject to sanctions
Under international law, only aid to civilians is considered humanitarian aid during international conflicts. Supporting one of the warring parties could bring Auchan under sanctions and lead to the company’s withdrawal from the Russian market.
“Auchan has 230 stores in Russia, accounting for 10% of its turnover, or about $3.2 billion annually.
Auchan helps Russia fight mobilization evaders
In addition to the so-called “humanitarian aid,” Auchan helped the Russian authorities fight mobilization evaders. It means those Russian men who didn’t want to join the Russian army after Putin announced a partial mobilization and didn’t want to be sent to war in Ukraine.
According to the investigation, Auchan collected and transmitted data on its employees to military enlistment offices (and the data on military cards from employees began to be collected even before the full-scale invasion began in January 2022).
After the mobilization was announced, Auchan helped the military enlistment offices comply with the law: employees were handed draft notices at their workplace and offered to resign.
The Russian management of Auchan declined to comment. The press service of the French Auchan said that the company is out of politics and does not support the military in any way.
And now, we need to wait for European and French authorities’ response to this investigation and eventual sanctions against Auchan.