MOSCOW, May 14. /TASS/. The problem of Mistral helicopter carriers is not a subject for conflict between France and Russia, Russia may have the ships if the Russian army really needs them, a French Senator said on Thursday.
"We are to be sure the Russians really need Mistrals. It is not obvious," Aymeri de Montesquiou, vice president of the Senate’s commission for international affairs, defense and armed forces, said after a meeting with the chairman of the international committee of Russia’s Federation Council upper parliament house, Konstantin Kosachev. "I think among the Russian military there are people who are not willing to see such ships in the Russian armed forces."
In his words, the Mistral contract was more political than economic for Russia. "It was meant to demonstrate the closeness of Russia and France. And now Russia is beginning to ask itself whether it really needs them," the French Senator said. "As a sign of cooperation, Russia should say, ‘Yes, we do need them.’"
He refrained from making Mistral supplies dependent on the implementation of the Minsk agreements but did not rule out that the ships "will be at Russia’s coasts" after the implementation of the package of measures on the settlement of the situation in Ukraine.
A key condition for Mistral supplies, according to de Montesquiou, is an agreement on that matter between Russia and France. "If both parties agree, there is no problems," he noted.
The contract for the construction of two Mistral-type helicopter carriers for the Russian Navy to a sum of €1.12 billion 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.