How a French company helps Putin's fleet stay modern amid sanctions

Il-96-300
Il-96-300

A French subsidiary of the U.S.-based Astronics group, located in Châteauroux, France, continues to supply sophisticated avionics for Russian aircraft used by the country's top military and political leaders, despite international sanctions. This was reported by Le Parisien on April 21 following an extensive investigation.

The systems provided by PGA, the French arm of Astronics headquartered in New York, manage all onboard electronics from cockpit lighting to the transmission and communication networks. These components have been fitted onto planes used by key Russian figures such as Vladimir Putin, Dmitry Medvedev, and Sergei Shoigu.

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"PGA in Châteauroux, a French subsidiary specializing in avionics, ensures that Putin, Medvedev, Shoigu, and other Russian elites have access to state-of-the-art technology for secure communications," noted the investigators.

The company’s dealings with Russia have reportedly intensified since the onset of the war in Ukraine, with earnings estimated between €4 and €5 million ($4.3-5.3 million), which equates to the avionics for seven aircraft.

The equipped planes, including the Il-96 and Sukhoi 100 Superjets, are utilized by high-ranking officials like Dmitry Peskov and FSB leadership, with Putin himself using an Il-96.

Read also: Are Sanctions Working?

To avoid sanctions, PGA allegedly shipped its equipment in containers filled with various electronic items to a company in Armenia, based at a former Soviet facility. However, due to deteriorating Russian-Armenian relations, the shipments are now sent directly from Yerevan to Moscow, where they are installed at a secretive airfield. The discovery was made possible by tracking devices attached to the cargo, with payments processed through Dubai.

The report also highlighted that Russian authorities have used civilian aviation assets, including those equipped by PGA, to transport conscripts for the war in Ukraine.

Read also: Finland, Sweden call for stronger EU sanctions against Russia and Belarus

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