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PARIS, July 29. /TASS/. Both helicopter carriers of the Mistral class, built in France for the Russian Navy, have not left port of Saint Nazaire lately, a representative of the French shipbuilding company DCNS which is engaged in the construction of these ships told TASS on Wednesday.
"The ships are staying at Saint-Nazaire berth and have not moved anywhere. The Sevastopol ship indeed should undergo sea trials, but no voyage has been planned so far," said the source.
The Nantes - Saint Nazaire Port Authority, which monitors all the movements of vessels in the area, has not confirmed to TASS information about the possible movement of the warship. "According to our sources, the Mistral ships have not passed the port’s canal locks in recent weeks," said a port source.
The second helicopter - Sevastopol - was originally planned to be transferred to Russia in the second half of 2015, however, as is the case with the first warship, France decided to suspend the vessel delivery to Russia. By now, the Sevastopol ship has passed three sea trials.
The €1.12 billion contract for the construction of two Mistral-type helicopter carriers for the Russian Navy was signed in June 2011. Under the contract, Russia was expected to receive the first of the two warships, the Vladivostok, in the autumn of 2014. However, Paris suspended the ship’s handover to Russia at the very last moment over Moscow’s stance on developments in neighboring Ukraine.
It was planned that the second ship dubbed the Sevastopol would be handed over to Russia in the second half of 2015. But the deal was suspended like in the case with the first Mistral ship.
Russian presidential aide for military and technical cooperation Vladimir Kozhin earlier told TASS Russia was discussing only the sum of compensation for France’s refusal to deliver the amphibious ships and a final document would be signed soon. The Mistral-type helicopter carriers have a displacement of 21 tonnes, the maximum body length of 210 metres, 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 motorised vehicles. Mistral 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.
On July 26, French President Francois Hollande said that the decision on whether or not to deliver Mistral helicopter carriers to Russia will be taken in the coming weeks. He did not elaborate on the fate of the contract, Bloomberg reported. Earlier this month, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said during a visit to Washington the French government had decided to halt the delivery of the first two Mistral carriers to Russia although it realised it would have to reimburse a big enough sum of money for non-compliance with the contract.
He recalled President Hollande had ordered suspension of the transfer of two newly built ships to Russia in the wake of developments in Ukraine. Drian insisted that this was a correct strategic decision and the situation had not changed a little since then. Conditions for the transaction did not exist at the moment, he said. He admitted along with it that the failure to perform the contract would cost €1.2 billion to the French government.
On July 25, a source in the Russian defense manufacturing sector told TASS that the Russian authorities had begun to gather a group of specialists who would go to France to dismantle equipment installed on the Mistrals. "We’ve received a task to do this and we’re gathering a group of experts now who’ll go to France to dismantle the telecommunications and control equipment supplied by Russian manufacturers and installed on the Mistral (the Vladivostok)," the source said. He stressed the universal character of that equipment, adding it could be used on other Russian naval ships. Telecommunications and control systems for the two helicopter carriers were designed and manufactured by the Sistemy Upravleniya corporation.