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Minsk summit on Ukraine agenda excluded Mistral deliveries to Russia — Putin’s spokesman

February 13, 2015, 8:44 UTC+3 MOSCOW
Dmitry Peskov said that the leaders of Russia, Germany, France and Ukraine met to find a way for the Ukrainian crisis settlement, but Mistral ships’ deliveries were not discussed
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MOSCOW, February 13. /TASS/. An issue of Mistral-type helicopter carriers’ deliveries to Russia was not on the agenda of this week’s summit on Ukraine settlement in the Belarusian capital of Minsk, the Russian presidential spokesman said.

In an interview with Kommersant daily, Dmitry Peskov said that Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko met in Minsk to find a way for the Ukrainian crisis settlement, but Mistral ships’ deliveries were not discussed.

Speaking at a news conference in Brussels after an extraordinary EU summit on Thursday night, French President Francois Hollande said he saw no conditions for delivering Mistral-type helicopter carriers to Russia despite new agreements on the settlement of the Ukrainian crisis.

The French leader said that the issue of the Mistral helicopter carriers deliveries to Russia would depend on the implementation of the Ukrainian ceasefire agreement reached at the recent Normandy Four talks in the Belarusian capital of Minsk.

The Minsk key negotiations, which started at 8:15 p.m. Moscow time (17:15 GMT) on Wednesday, lasted for around 16 hours. The high-ranking participants of the marathon talks in Minsk agreed on ceasefire from midnight, February 15.

Previous ceasefire in Ukraine agreement

The ceasefire agreement reached at the talks in Minsk this week was not the first during the military conflict in Ukraine, which erupted less than a year ago. The previous ceasefire between Kiev authorities and defense forces of the self-proclaimed republics in the south-east of Ukraine was reached in September with the mediation of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

The ceasefire was agreed upon on September 5 at talks between the parties to the Ukrainian conflict as well as the OSCE representatives. It was reached in the Belarusian capital Minsk two days after Russian President Putin proposed his plan to settle the situation in the east of Ukraine.

However, numerous violations of the ceasefire, which took effect the same day, have been reported since. The situation in the south-east of Ukraine deteriorated further with the start of this year as military clashes intensified resulting in numerous casualties on both conflicting sides.

The deterioration in Ukraine prompted a diplomatic blitz from Hollande and Merkel last week as they went first for talks with Poroshenko in Kiev on Thursday and then met with Putin in Kremlin the other day.

Russia-France Mistral deal

In June 2011, Russia signed a €1.2 billion contract with France on the delivery of Mistral ships. The contract stipulated construction of two Mistral class helicopter carriers for the Russian Navy. The first warship — the Vladivostok — was to be handed over to Russia in autumn 2014 but the French side postponed the delivery citing Moscow’s stance in regard to the conflict in Ukraine.

The second Mistral helicopter carrier — the Sevastopol — was floated out in November. Under the contract, the Russian Fleet expected it in 2015.

A source told TASS earlier that under the contract France is allowed to postpone the delivery of the first Mistral warship for three months, starting November 1, 2014.

Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov said in November that Russia would be acting strictly in line with the contract and would file a lawsuit if the Mistral warship is not delivered. According to various media reports, French penalty may amount some €3 billion.

The Mistral-type helicopter carriers have a displacement of 21 tons, the maximum body length of 210 meters, the speed of 18 knots and the range of up to 20,000 miles.

The helicopter carrier can accommodate 450 people in addition to its crew of 180. It carries 16 helicopters, of which six can be simultaneously stored on the flight-deck. A compartment in the cargo deck can accommodate more than 40 tanks or 70 motorized vehicles.

Mistral landing helicopter carriers are capable of performing four tasks at the same time: receive helicopters, land troops, and act as a command post and a floating hospital.

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