Paris continues to believe that the transfer of a Mistral ship to Russia is not possible at the moment, the Foreign Ministry said on Monday.
Its spokesperson recalled President Francois Hollande’s statement of September 18 that the contract with Russia would be fulfilled only if there was progress in political settlement in Ukraine.
He declined to comment on Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin’s remarks on Sunday that if France cancelled the contract and decided to transfer with the ship to somebody else, it would act unlawfully as one third of that ship was Russian-made.
“The stern section of Mistral was made at Baltic Shipyard in St. Petersburg. That is why if they want to keep the ship, we will have to tear away its stern section and get it back to use it in other ships,” Rogozin said.
For the same reason, it is impossible to transfer this half-of-the-ship to anybody else,” he added. “Secondly, the money has been paid and it must be returned with penalties. Thirdly, it is not even money that France is risking, but its status of a reliable supplier in the World Trade Organisation,” Rogozin said.
Hollande said France had not suspended or cancelled the deal with Russia, but the delivery of the ships would depend on how the situation develops in eastern Ukraine which has been gripped by violence and fighting between militias and government troops for months.
Hollande said these conditions were not currently in place there and if the situation deteriorated further, France would delay the delivery again.
He earlier assured Russia that his country would fulfill its obligations and hand over the first ship as scheduled but the work on the second one would depend on Moscow’s position on the Ukrainian crisis.
He said there could be no question of failing to deliver. “Russia has paid,” he said, adding that otherwise France would have to pay a fine of 1.1 billion euros.
Russia warned that the refusal to implement the contact would adversely affect military-technical cooperation between the two countries.
In June, President Vladimir Putin said France would have to return the money paid for the ships if it refused to deliver them and this “will not allow us to develop military-technical relations” with Paris further.
Washington earlier advised Paris to suspend the deal with Russia. U.S. President Barack Obama voiced his concern about it in Brussels and raised this issue again at a meeting with Hollande in Paris in early June.
However Hollande said the contract to build Mistral-type ships for Russia was being implemented as scheduled and would be fulfilled in October of this year.
The contract signed in 2011 has not been revised and its implementation will be completed in October, Hollande said.
Under the contract, each Mistral ship has to be built by France within 36 months. The first of them, the Vladivostok, is to arrive in St. Petersburg from Saint-Nazaire, France, in December 2014. In St. Petersburg it will be equipped with Russian weapons, military hardware and systems. After that and the crew training, the Vladivostok will sail off to its base in the Pacific Fleet.
The second ship, the Sevastopol, will arrive in St. Petersburg in November 2015 to make a voyage to the Pacific Fleet and join it in the second half of 2016.
Apart from these two ships, Russia has also purchased French technology for the combat information control and communications systems.
Mistral landing helicopter carriers will perform four tasks at the same time: receive helicopters, land troops, act as a command post and a floating hospital.
Each ship will carry a group of 16 helicopters. Six of them can be deployed on the flight-deck at the same time. The cargo deck can accommodate more than 40 tanks or 70 motor vehicles.
Russia is buying the French helicopter carrier Mistral with French equipment, including combat navigation devices, but will arm it with its own weaponry. The Mistral ships will carry upgraded Russian Ka-32 Alligator attack helicopters.