Thursday

21st Mar 2019

Russia indicates French warship deal is dead

  • Russia 'won't be taking' the warships (Photo: navy.mil)

A senior Russian official has indicated the deal to buy two high-tech French warships has been definitively abandoned.

Oleg Bochkarev, the deputy chairman of the Russian Military-Industrial Commission, told media on Tuesday (26 May), in remarks reported by the state-onwed Tass agency: “Russia won't be taking them, that's a fact”.

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“There’s just a single discussion underway at the moment - on the amount of money that should be returned to Russia”.

He added that Russia will instead develop its own amphibious assault vessels as part of a broader shift away from Western defence contracts.

The warships, called Mistrals, were sold after Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008, but before its invasion of Ukraine last year.

Dubbed “instruments of destabilisation” of the EU’s eastern neighbourhood by hawkish EU diplomats, they became a symbol of France’s reluctance to show solidarity on EU sanctions.

When member states imposed economic measures last summer, France made sure the arms embargo only covers new, but not existing contracts.

In September, president Francois Hollande bowed to US and German pressure and put the deal on hold.

Since then, France and Russia have been negotiating on how to dissolve the deal in an amicable way.

Russia has already paid France €800 million of the €1.2 billion price tag and sent hundreds of sailors to train in the French port of St. Nazaire.

Russian newspaper Kommersant reported earlier this month that France is ready to refund the €800 million, but wants permission from Russia to sell the ships to someone else.

But it said Russia is seeking €1.163 billion for “expenditures and losses” related to the ruptured contract.

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