Tags: france | warship | russia

France Warship to Russia? Oui Says Moscow, Nyet Says Builder

By    |   Thursday, 30 Oct 2014 12:17 PM

Amid pressure on Paris to scrap the deal, the manufacturer of a French warship sold to Russia has denied setting a date for the controversial handover, but Moscow says the Mistral helicopter carrier will change hands at a ceremony next month.

France is facing mounting opposition over the contract against the backdrop of Moscow's role in the Ukraine crisis, according to news service AFP, further complicated by Russia's decision to recognize the results of a separatist vote in Ukraine's east due this weekend.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said the country's state-run arms dealer had received an invitation to attend a ceremony on Nov. 14 for the handing over of the first of two Mistral helicopter carriers.

"From the point of view of the technical fulfilment of the contract, everything is going to plan," Rogozin said.

"As concerns the political decision, we think that France has to defend its reputation as a reliable partner," he added.

However, the French manufacturer of the warship denied a date had been set.

A spokesman for the naval defence group DCNS said it was waiting for government authorisation to export the first of two helicopter carriers, adding: "No delivery date can therefore be confirmed at this stage."

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Tuesday that the decision on whether to deliver the state-of-the-art warship to Moscow would be made in November.

Paris last month said it was postponing the decision to deliver the first of two Mistral-class advanced helicopter assault ships to Russia until November after fierce criticism from its allies.

President Francois Hollande's office announced on September 4 that conditions for France to deliver the warship were "not to date in place", pointing to Russian involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Hollande reiterated earlier this month that a ceasefire reached between Kiev, Moscow and pro-Russia separatists in east Ukraine would have to be "completely respected" for Paris to deliver the ship, which has already undergone sea tests.

Paris agreed in 2011 to build and sell the two assault ships to Russia, with the first originally scheduled for delivery in October or November and the second in 2015.

Russia has however turned up the heat on France to either deliver or cough up the money.

The 1.2 billion-euro ($1.5 billion) contract is important for France, which is weighed down by record unemployment and sluggish growth.

Moscow's tough stance has also caused a rift between France and its NATO allies, especially some ex-Communist states and former allies of the erstwhile Soviet Union such as Poland.

Warsaw has said that the French sale will not help it when Poland chooses a manufacturer for its planned missile shield.

"I can't hide the fact that the Mistral (warship contract) is not helping us make positive decisions" about French missile shield suppliers, Polish Defence Minister Tomasz Siemoniak said last month.

Poland has upped its defence spending amid the conflict in neighbouring Ukraine.


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Amid pressure on Paris to scrap the deal, the manufacturer of a French warship sold to Russia has denied setting a date for the controversial handover, but Moscow says the Mistral helicopter carrier will change hands at a ceremony next month.
france, warship, russia
506
2014-17-30
Thursday, 30 Oct 2014 12:17 PM
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