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Paris silent about the future of Mistral assault ships built for Russia

May 11, 2015, 18:18 UTC+3 PARIS
Earlier on Monday, Chinese media reported that the French authorities could try to sell the two Mistral ships to China
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© ITAR-TASS/Vadim Zhernov

PARIS, May 11. /TASS/. The official Paris refrains at the moment from commenting on the future of two Mistral assault ships that were built for Russia but have not been handed over because of the Ukraine crisis, French Foreign Ministry spokesman Romain Nadal said on Monday.

"As you know, the French authorities have repeatedly spoken out on the issue," this was the only comment he made in reply to a query about the recent statement of Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin who said the French side could not make any decisions on re-selling the ships without Moscow’s consent.

French President Francois Hollande said late in April that no final decision had been made so far. He confirmed, however, that in case France refused to deliver the ships to Russia, it would pay the compensation owed to Russia.

Earlier on Monday, Chinese media reported that the French authorities could try to sell the two Mistral ships to China. China’s Duowei Xinwen newspaper said the deal could be discussed when French naval ships called at the port of Shanghai between May 9 and 15.

Infographics Mistral helicopter carrier Mistral helicopter carrier
Russia will purchase Mistral-class helicopter carriers from France. Infographics by TASS

A group of French naval ships calling at Shanghai port include the Dixmude Mistral-class assault ship as well as the Aconit frigate. The newspaper writes that it is the first time a Mistral-class ship calls at a Chinese port.

The French side does not comment on these media reports. In particular, the French DCNS naval shipbuilder, where both helicopter carrier were built, said the decision on Mistrals’ future was prerogative of the French political leadership.

On Saturday, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said France couldn’t make decisions on the sale of Mistral helicopter carriers without Russia’s consent as the Russian Federation had the end user certificate.

"The stern sections are ours. We have the end user certificate for them. They can’t do anything without our permission," Rogozin told journalists.

He described all manipulations designed to sell or flood Mistrals as attempts by "their [French] military to blackmail their politicians."

He said the vessels built for Russia’s navy are fully Russified and adapted to Russian naval standards.

The first Mistral, the Vladivostok, was floated in October 2013. It was expected to be handed over to Russia by the French side in the fall of 2014, but the handover did not take place. At the very last moment, Paris suspended it indefinitely, citing the Ukraine events.

The second Mistral, the Sevastopol, was to be delivered to Russia in October 2015, but the deal was suspended too.

The €1.12-billion contract to build the Mistral amphibious assault ships for the Russian navy was signed in June 2011. In case it is not implemented, France will have to pay Russia a penalty fee.

France suspended the delivery of Mistrals to Russia as part of a package of sanctions the European countries imposed on Moscow for what they claimed was its alleged role in destabilization of southeast Ukraine.

Russia has constantly dismissed allegations that Moscow could in any way be involved in hostilities in Ukraine’s southeast.

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