MOSCOW, May 15. /TASS/. The situation around Mistral helicopter carriers casts doubts on France as a reliable partner in defence-sector cooperation, Russia’s Permanent Representative at the European Union Vladimir Chizhov told the Rossiya-24 television channel on Friday.
He reminded that as soon as problems around Mistral deliveries emerged, the Russian president put Russia’s position quite straightforward: "either ships or money." "French leaders were spinning that matter out for a long time and only now they have made a final choice - money. The rest is a matter of business. It’s up to experts to estimate the figure," Chizhov said.
"This step is not France’s benefit as a big power and one of the world’s leading suppliers of defence-related products," the Russia diplomat stressed. "The partner’s reliability was doubted as soon as the Mistral deal had been stalled and it will be doubted in future."
Earlier on Friday Russia’s Kommersant daily quoted "sources in the sphere of military-technical cooperation" as saying that France had addressed Russia with proposals for severing the contract for the supply of two Mistral ships to Russia.
These proposals "imply the return of about 785 million euros to Russia, which it will be able to get back only after the government has issued permission to selling the ships to any third party without any reservations," the daily said, adding that Moscow was reportedly against such an approach. According to the paper Russia estimates the spending on and losses from the abortive contract at 1.163 billion euros and is not going to issue any re-export permissions until it has the money back.
The contract for the construction of two Mistral-type helicopter carriers for the Russian Navy to a sum of 1.12 billion euro was signed in June 2011. The contract stipulated for the 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.
Built by France’s DCNS for the Russian Navy, the second Mistral helicopter carrier - the Sevastopol - is a universal assault helicopter carrier capable of performing the tasks of shipping troops and cargoes, landing troops and acting as a command post. It can accommodate up to 900 troops and carry up to 16 heavy or 32 light helicopters and four landing boats. The keel was laid down on June 19, 2013 and the vessel was floated out on November 20, 2014. It has been undergoing manufacturer’s trials at Staint Nazaire shipyards since March 16, 2015.
Under the contract, the Russian Fleet expected it in the second half of 2015. But the deal was suspended like in the case of the first Mistral ship. Earlier, Paris repeatedly said that the deal would be closed only when the conflict in southeastern Ukraine was settled.