France Halts Russia Warships Delivery

russiaFrance says conditions are “not right” for the delivery of the first of two Mistral navy assault ships to Russia.

President Francois Hollande’s office blamed Moscow’s recent actions in Ukraine, for the decision.

France had, until now, resisted pressure to halt the delivery.

It had said it needed to respect an existing contract, to which EU sanctions could not apply retroactively, and that it would have been too costly to cancel the deal.

The Vladivostok, the first of the two helicopter carriers, was expected to have been delivered to Russia by late October.

The second, the Sevastopol, was to have been sent next year, although no mention of it was made in Mr Hollande’s statement.

With the escalation of the crisis in Eastern Ukraine and as Russia’s blatant and direct military role there so the pressure on the French government to halt its sale of the two advanced assault ships to Russia has grown ever stronger.

The US and a number of other countries have long made their feelings plain.

But the deal weathered tensions with Moscow over Syria, and the Russian crew of the first vessel which is already undergoing sea trials has travelled to France to begin training.

This was the most significant Western arms sale to Russia and its postponement – the exact terms of the suspension of the deal are not clear – marks a very visible rebuff of Moscow on the eve of Nato’s Wales Summit.

The Mistral assault ships can carry up to 16 heavy helicopters, land troops and armoured vehicles. Their delivery would have resulted in a marked improvement in Russia’s amphibious capability.

But Mr Hollande’s office said Wednesday’s remarks by the Russian and Ukrainian Presidents about a possible ceasefire were not enough to allow France to give it the go-ahead.



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