FRANCE, Germany and Italy side-stepped an arms embargo to sell weapons to Vladimir Putin that are being used to slaughter Ukrainians.
On a day of shame for the EU, it emerged ten member states sold hundreds of millions of pounds of military kit to Russia between 2015 and 2020.
Paris sent bombs, rockets and explosives, as well as thermal-imaging cameras for 1,000 tanks and infra-red detectors for jets.
Berlin sold what it called “dual-use equipment” including rifles, “special protection” vehicles and icebreaker vessels and Rome provided armoured cars.
EU states, including then-member Britain, hit Russia with a weapons embargo in 2014 over the annexation of Crimea.
But a loophole allowed countries and firms to fulfil contracts they had previously signed with Russia.
And a probe by Investigate Europe shows EU27 states issued more than 1,000 licences after the ban.
France went on to flog £130million of military kit to the Kremlin, Germany sold £100million and Italy made £19million.
In 2015, Rome authorised the sale of Lynce military all-terrain vehicles to Moscow – which have been seen in Ukraine since the war began by Italian TV channel La7.
Despite the EU imposing an embargo on weapon sales, investigative website Disclose reports that between 2015 and 2020, France issued 76 export licences to Russia for military equipment.
And according to a report by Investigate Europe, ten EU member states continued to send weapons to Russia after the embargo – with Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Finland, Slovakia and Spain on the list.
Figures from the EU Council Working Party on Conventional Arms Exports reveal the ten EU states exported military equipment worth a total of £291million to Russia between 2015 and 2020.
Out of the ten, France reportedly accounted for 44 per cent of sales, with aircraft, navigation systems, torpedoes and missiles among the equipment sent.
In 2015, French president François Hollande was pressured into ditching plans to flog two Mistral-class amphibious assault ships to Russia – but successive French governments went on to take advantage of the loophole.
Britain also sold weapons to Russia after the embargo was imposed, but only £1.7million worth.
And after dodging the Russian arms embargo, Germany was slammed by Kyiv’s mayor after offering to send 5,000 helmets to support Ukrainian forces against Putin’s troops.
Former boxer-turned politician Vitali Klitschko poked fun at the offer, asking if the nation would like to send pillows instead as Berlin refused to send weapons to Ukraine.
But just days into the invasion, Germany bowed to pressure and reversed its historic policy to not send weapons to conflict zones – offering to hand over 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 Stinger anti-aircraft defence systems to Ukraine
Meanwhile, as Putin’s invasion of Ukraine stalls with the US estimating some 30,000 Russian soldiers have been killed or captured since the conflict began, defiant Ukrainians have been seizing Russian equipment to use against them as the war rages on into its fourth week.
Volodymyr Zelensky has begged European leaders to send more weapons to help Ukrainians tirelessly defend their country as Russian forces continue to blast major cities.
The heroic leader urged leaders of the Joint Expeditionary Force on Tuesday to “help yourself by helping us” by sending more equipment.
“We all are the targets of Russia and everything will go against Europe if Ukraine won’t stand, so I would like to ask you to help yourself by helping us. ,” Zelensky said.
“You know the weapons we need. You know what kind of defence measures we need. You know that our need is fighter jets and without your support it would be very difficult
“‘We want you to help us and I would hope that you will be able to enhance that support and you will see how this will protect your security, your safety and how that will make a stable peace not only for us but for your countries.”
Zelensky said shipments of supplies from nations in Europe were being used up quickly as Ukrainian forces push captured Russian weapons and machinery into service.
It comes as the Ukrainian President again asked Washington and its NATO allies to impose a no-fly zone to ensure “Russia wouldn’t be able to terrorise our free cities”.
He addressed Joe Biden directly, saying: “I wish you to be the leader of the world. Being the leader of the world means to be the leader of peace.”
Biden and Nato have resisted Zelensky’s pleas for direct involvement against Russia – warning it could lead to World War Three.
But the US President this week unveiled his latest package of aid to Ukraine to add to the £10.3billion in military and humanitarian aid already approved.
The US said they would provide long-range missile defence and Switchblade armed drones, which will allow Kyiv’s forces to better defend against Russian aircraft from a distance.
And the West has stepped up the range of powerful weapons being supplied to Ukraine, with Bayraktar TB2 drones, Stinger missiles and Portable anti-tank weapons being sent.
It comes as Putin’s troops continue to press their assault on major cities, with fresh missile strikes and shelling on the edges of Kyiv and the western city of Lviv.
Outside Lviv, black smoke billowed for hours after a strike early on Friday, which the mayor said hit a facility for repairing military aircraft near the city’s international airport, also damaging a bus repair facility.
Early morning barrages also hit on the northern edges of the capital, with at least one person killed by shelling on Podil, a neighborhood just north of downtown Kyiv, according to emergency services.
Meanwhile, Mariupol is being flattened by a squadron of 25 Russian bombers flying sorties over the city every day — with 90 per cent of all buildings damaged or destroyed.
Around 14,000 elite Russian troops surround the city, with many of the 400,000 residents — trapped for a 17th day without power and running water — drinking from puddles to survive.