TotalEnergies denies claim it made fuel for Russian forces

PARIS (AP) — A French and a Ukrainian nongovernmental organization have filed a complaint for “complicity in war crimes” against TotalEnergies, which they accuse of having operated a gas field that allegedly produces kerosene used by Russian warplanes in Ukraine. The French oil giant denied producing kerosene for the Russian military.

The Paris counterterrorism prosecutor’s office confirmed on Friday that it formally received the complaint and is going to examine it.

A statement from TotalEnergies denounced “outrageous and defamatory” accusations which “are an insult to the integrity of our teams and go against our values.”

The move by Ukrainian human rights group Razom We Stand (Together We Stand) and French organization Darwin Climax Coalition follows the publication in August of an investigation by British NGO Global Witness and French newspaper Le Monde.

“We are very determined to hold Total accountable,” Svitlana Romanko, the director of Razom We Stand, told the Associated Press. “We expect from the prosecutor that he and his bureau will open the case and investigate to show connections with Russia … and all financial tools that have enabled bombarding the civilians in my country,” she said.

“We aim to create a precedent for every other company who would even dare to violate in that way and create such an abuse of human rights, especially when the country is in open war,” she added.

The NGOs’ lawyers, William Bourdon, Vincent Brengarth and Henri Thulliez, said in a statement that “the question of accountability of the world’s largest corporations has never been so acute, particularly in conflict zones.”

Le Monde and Global Witness analyzed data to trace the supply chain of a gas field in Termokarstovoye, in Siberia where liquefied gas is allegedly turned into kerosene and used to fuel warplanes in two military air bases in Russia.

Total used to own 49% of the company which exploits the Siberian gas field Tenerftegaz, alongside its Russian partner Novatek which owned 51%. Last month, TotalEnergies sold its stakes to Novatek.

TotalEnergies said Friday that the gas condensate produced by Ternertegaz has been “exported abroad.”

“It is therefore impossible that it was used by the Russian army as fuel for their aircraft,” the group said in a statement.

The two military air bases mentioned by Le Monde and Global Witness are home to aircraft involved in most of the bombings of Ukraine’s city of Mariupol, according to NGOs Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, including the Mariupol theater airstrike — the single deadliest known attack in the war against civilians to date — which killed about 600 people on March 16 according to an AP investigation.

TotalEnergies, which has come under harsh criticism for pursuing its activities in Russia, said it was “its duty” to continue providing gas to supply Europe. The group said it has long-term contracts for the purchase of liquefied natural gas that it must fulfil given it does not fall under sanctions from the European Union.

In March, TotalEnergies announced it would “gradually suspend” its operations in Russia.

The French group said it “firmly condemns” Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine.

Dozens of foreign multinational corporations have curtailed operations in Russia, amid sanctions imposed by the U.S. and its Western allies.

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Jade Le Deley in Paris and Barbara Surk in Nice contributed.

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