Minsk summit after-effect: Will France bring Mistral deal to close?

The delivery of the Vladivostok amphibious assault ship and helicopter carrier, a Mistral-class vessel built by STX France, may be launched as soon as next week, The international Business Times reported Thursday with a reference to Russian news agency Interfax.

“The Elysee Palace could issue a command on the Mistral’s delivery as early as the beginning of next week so that the ship be fully ready for the delivery to the Russian side in the first half of March,” the Russian military diplomatic source told Interfax.

The success of the meeting in the Normandy formal will provide Paris with the opportunity to save face for the allies and at the same time keep up its reputation of a reliable supplier, the agency said.

Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius stressed that he delivery of two Mistral-class helicopter carriers to Russia under the 2011 deal is still suspended despite the positive outcome of the Minsk talks on the Ukrainian crisis resolution.

“The implementation of the contract is still on hold,” Fabius said in an interview with iTele television.

If the Mistral ships remain in France their upkeep and security alone will cost the French taxpayers ‘a hefty 5 million euros a month’, pro-Putin international news agency Sputnik has warned today.

As it was reported in early January, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian promised to hand over to Russia two Mistral-class helicopter carriers only after establishing ‘a lasting peace’ in Ukraine.

The contract for the building of the two Mistral helicopter carriers was signed between the French company DCNS and Russian state arms company Rosoboronexport in 2011.

The first of the two Mistral warships — built for Russia by France under a $1.7 billion contract signed in 2011 — was scheduled to be delivered in the last quarter of this year. The contract also envisaged a second Mistral ship to be delivered in 2015.

But in late November, France suspended delivery of the first Mistral carrier to Russia, citing Moscow’s interference in Ukraine.


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