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France Suspends Delivery Of Warship To Russia

The Mistral-class assault warship "Sevastopol," the second of two mammoth Mistral helicopter carriers, is docked in the western French port of Saint-Nazaire.
The Mistral-class assault warship "Sevastopol," the second of two mammoth Mistral helicopter carriers, is docked in the western French port of Saint-Nazaire.

France has delayed "until further notice" the delivery of a warship to Russia because of the crisis in Ukraine.

In a statement on November 25, President Francois Hollande said the "current situation in eastern Ukraine still does not allow for the first" of two Mistral-class vessels to be handed over to Moscow.

The "Vladivostok" was scheduled for delivery to Russia in late October or early November.

A second vessel, the "Sevastopol," was launched earlier this month for a planned delivery next year.

The Russian Defense Ministry warned that France will have to pay dearly if it does not deliver the amphibious assault ships.

"France will have to pay us damages and return advance payments," Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov said on state TV.

"If that is the final decision, the price for France will be higher than the cost of those Mistrals and higher than the compensation that Russia will receive," Russia's EU Ambassador Vladimir Chizhov told the Interfax news agency.

Chizhov said that Russia "is not going to beg Paris" for the warships.

"After all, we lived without the Mistral and we will live on, especially now that we know perfectly how to make them," he said, a remark that suggested Russia has acquired sufficent knowledge about the ships to build similar vessels itself.

In late June, some 400 Russian naval personnel arrived at the shipyard in Saint-Nazaire in western France, where the vessels are being kept, for training on how to operate them.

The handover of the warship was delayed after Russia illegally annexed Crimea last March and lent support to pro-Russian separatists fighting government troops in eastern Ukraine.

Analysts say France is under pressure from Western allies not to deliver the warships to Russia, amid a deterioration in relations over Ukraine.

In September, Hollande set out two conditions for delivering the vessel to Russia: the full implementation of a September cease-fire between the Ukrainian army and pro-Russian rebels and a political settlement to the conflict.

The Mistral can carry 16 helicopters, four landing craft, 13 tanks, and 450 soldiers.

Russia ordered the ships from France back in 2010 in a deal reportedly worth some $1.5 billion.

Analysts say France faces few options over what to do with the vessels.

If it does not transfer them to Russia, it will face steep fines.

Selling them to someone else is out of the question, because the vessels are equipped with sensitive Russian technology.

A source inside the Russian Defense Ministry told the Interfax news agency that Russia is confident it will eventually get the ships.

"We can do without them but what will France do with them? That's the question."

WIth reporting by dpa and AFP

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