A French arms firm partnered with the Welsh Government has been accused of supplying kit used by the Russian military in its invasion of Ukraine.

Thales Group, one of the world's largest military contractors, was handed more than £15 million in Welsh Government grants between 2020-2021 as part of the Tech Valleys project.

On Thursday, Oleksiy Goncharenko, a Ukrainian MP representing the southern port city of Odessa, accused Thales of "aiding" Vladimir Putin's invasion of his country, claiming that a recently seized Russian tank was found to be "stuffed" with Thales tech equipment.

It comes just weeks after human rights charities launched a criminal complaint against the firm over its "complicity" in alleged war crimes committed in Yemen. 

Mr Goncharenko told The Sun: “The French people who are opening their doors to Ukrainian refugees should be aware they are fleeing a war aided by their country’s own firms.”

In a video earlier this month, the MP sat inside a captured Russian T-90 tank, pointing to night vision technology that appeared to be labelled with the Thales logo.

"This tank would not work or fire in the night without this system," he said.

"Without the system that was sold to Russia by Thales company.

“Systems for their weapons which are now killing Ukrainian civilians and fighting against the free world."

Speaking to the company directly in the video, Mr Gorachenko added: "Is it ok that you were selling to them?

“Stop it - stop selling to Russia things which they are killing people with.”

Asked whether the allegations would impact upon its relationship with Thales going forward, the Welsh Government declined to comment.

Back in April, Ukrainian presidential advisor Mykhaylo Podolyak accused Thales of supplying fire control systems for Russian armoured vehicles – tech that helps munitions hit their targets - as well as thermal cameras.

Sanctions against arms exports to Russia have been in place since the country's 2014 annexation of Crimea.

Thales strongly denies reports it sold kit to Russia beyond this point.

“No defence equipment export contract has been signed with Russia since 2014 and no delivery has been made to Russia since the start of the conflict in Ukraine”, the company told French news agency AFP at the time, adding that it had decided to cease operations in Russia.

The company has seen significant financial benefits from the war in Ukraine, with thousands of its Next Generation Light Anti-Tank Weapons (NLAWs) bought up by the UK Government to supply the Ukrainian military - along with its "Starstreak" anti-aircraft missiles.

Shares in Thales have risen by 35 percent since the invasion began.

The arms firm has also recently been hit with legal action from the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), which accuses Thales of being "complicit" in potential war crimes committed in Yemen.

It's alleged that the firm continued to sell fighter jets, missiles and guidance systems to a Saudi-led military coalition operating in the country, despite evidence that it was deliberately bombing Yemeni schools, hospitals and other civilian targets.

READ MORE: Firm handed £15m in Welsh Government partnership accused of war crimes complicity

Close to 400,000 people have been killed in the conflict through violence, disease and starvation, in what is considered the most severe humanitarian crisis in the world.

The Welsh Government’s partnership with Thales - while declaring Wales a “nation of sanctuary” for refugees and asylum seekers - was branded as  “hypocrisy” by Osamah Alfakih, advocacy director at human rights charity Mwatana, which is documenting atrocities on the ground in Yemen.

“These governments that believe, or pretend, that they are respecting human rights, respecting international law, respecting the dignity of human beings in general - at the same time, they’re involved with other armed conflicts, other atrocities, in one way or another," Mr Alfakih told The National.

Along with a response to the latest allegations against Thales, we asked the Welsh Government for clarity on its partnership with Thales, including whether it will have oversight over projects undertaken at the new National Digital Exploitation Centre and ReslientWorks sites, two cyber security hubs opened up in Ebbw Vale as part of their partnership.

We asked whether the NDEC and ResilientWorks facilities are wholly or partly owned by the Welsh Government, and whether or not it sought or secured any assurance that projects undertaken at either site will not be used in military settings or as part of border controls.

The government said that it was not a matter for it to respond to.

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