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PARIS, July 31. /TASS/. French authorities will take a decision [on the issue of delivery to Russia] of the Mistral class helicopter carriers before the end of summer, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said on Friday after a ministerial council meeting at the Elysee palace.
He said important decisions on this matter would be made by the end of August. He did not give any details on whether France would hand the vessels over to Russia or pay a compensation for the severed supply contract.
An article published by the Kommersant daily said the forfeit penalty will total €1.2 billion. The Kremlin refuses to disclose any details of agreements that may or may not have been reached.
On Thursday, Russian presidential aide for military-technical cooperation Vladimir Kozhin told TASS that France was discussing only the compensation sum, and the final document was expected to be signed shortly.
On July 28, French President Francois Hollande said that the decision on whether or not to deliver Mistral helicopter carriers to Russia would be taken in the coming weeks. He did not elaborate on the fate of the contract.
The 1.12 billion-euro 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.
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.
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 euro to the French government.
On July 25, a source in the Russian defence 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.