"I persist and I sign: Total is a large French group which brings discredit to France", affirmed the environmental candidate during a press conference at the end of the afternoon in Paris, a few hours after the CEO of Total, Patrick Pouyanné, announced that he was suing him.

"I accuse Total of being complicit in the war crimes perpetrated in Ukraine by being aware of the atrocities and by working with the oligarchs targeted by international sanctions", asserted Yannick Jadot, credited with around 6% in the voting intentions. .

Wednesday morning on RTL, Patrick Pouyanné was indignant at the attacks of the candidate.

"When Mr. Jadot accuses the 100,000 employees of Total (of war crimes, editor's note), it is extremely serious, it is an insult, (...) it is not acceptable", he declared, "angry".

"Mr. Jadot spends his time speaking ill of my business. What I see is that it's bringing him down in the polls; he better get on with his campaign and stop insulting us “, he snapped.

While Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged French companies to leave Russia before French parliamentarians on Wednesday, Yannick Jadot blushed in front of journalists by denouncing the situation: "The lives of Ukrainians are worth more than the profits of Total".

Patrick Pouyanné, CEO of Total, in Riyadh on October 23, 2021 Fayez Nureldine AFP / Archives

Unlike his competitor Jean-Luc Mélenchon, largely in the lead on the left but discreet about this company, Yannick Jadot points the finger at the involvement of TotalEnergies in Russia since the start of the war.

A way also to speak about his identity as an ecologist favorable to renewable energies and destroyer of fossil fuels.

In front of the press, the candidate, who is calling for an embargo on Russian gas and oil, insisted that "Total's profits are made on the backs of motorists, the climate and Ukrainians".

"End of Complacency"

He added that he was "the only candidate who has made his project the end of energy dependencies and complacency", attacking President Emmanuel Macron in passing.

"Pouyanné says + I am following the instructions +. Obviously he is supported in his activities by the Head of State" who, according to him, is responsible for "imposing Total's withdrawal" from Russia.

The group had indicated on Tuesday to stop all purchases of Russian oil or petroleum products before the end of 2022 in the face of "the worsening of the conflict" in Ukraine, but not of gas.

A "complementary" decision to the previously decided stoppage of capital contributions to new projects in Russia, which does not mean, however, that the group is withdrawing from the country.

Yannick Jadot had reacted a few hours later on Twitter: "TotalEnergies, supported by E. Macron, makes some concessions but maintains most of its activities in Russia, in full knowledge of the war crimes that they contribute to finance. Yes, it's being an accomplice!”, he said, demanding that Mr. Pouyanné debate with him.

French presidential candidate EELV Yannick Jadot in Paris, March 21, 2022 STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN AFP

The "debate" will probably take place in court.

In a statement sent to AFP, TotalEnergies announced that it was launching "defamation action without delay" against "unacceptable", "extremely serious and unfounded" remarks.

"To be + accomplice in war crimes + is to provide direct aid to a State or to a criminal organization that is the perpetrator of the crimes", underlined the group, addressing Yannick Jadot directly: "Your remarks are particularly serious and unfounded against our company which does not operate any oil or gas fields in Russia".

Denouncing an "insult to the integrity of (their) teams", TotalEnergies affirmed to continue "its gas purchase operations in Russia to resell it, in particular in Europe for the benefit of European consumers".

Several environmental leaders have stepped up to defend their candidate.

“No procedure will silence the environmentalists”, assured in particular the deputy Delphine Batho, head of the spokespersons for Yannick Jadot.

© 2022 AFP