French President Francois Hollande has postponed the delivery of the first Mistral-class helicopter carrier to Russia because of the situation in Ukraine, a French government statement said Tuesday.
“The President of the (French) Republic believes the current situation in eastern Ukraine does not allow the transfer of the first Mistral to Russia. He believes it is necessary to postpone the issue of allowing the transfer of the first Mistral to Russia until another [presidential] order is given,” the statement read.
Earlier on Tuesday, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius wrote on his Twitter account that the conditions for the delivery of the Mistral-class ships to Russia were not met.
Russia and France signed a $1.6 billion deal for two Mistral-class ships in June 2011. The vessels, capable of carrying 16 helicopters, four landing craft, 70 armored vehicles and 450 troops, are expected to join Russia’s Pacific Fleet.
The deal, however, has been at risk since the conflict in Ukraine started to escalate. The West, blaming Moscow for its alleged aggressive policy toward Ukraine has introduced several rounds of sanctions on Russia. In October, French President Francois Hollande threatened to suspend the deliveries of the ships to Russia.
The handover of the first ship, the Vladivostok, was scheduled for 14 November 2014 but did not take place. The second ship, the Sevastopol, is supposed to arrive in 2015.
Russia has condemned France’s failure to deliveron its contractual obligations, saying Paris would have to pay a large penalty if the deal was canceled.
Earlier in November, Russia's envoy to NATO Alexander Grushko said that Russia would not rule out legal action against France if it failed to deliver the ships.
According to a poll, conducted by French newspaper Le Figaro, about 60% of French citizens believe Paris should meet its obligation under the contract and deliver the helicopter carriers to Russia.
Moscow currently has no plans to file claims against France over Hollande's decision to put the Mistral warship deal on hold, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov said Tuesday.
“No, we are not planning to file any [claims] at the moment. Everything is specified in the contract, and we will act under that contract, just like all civilized people do,” he said.
Russia and France signed a $1.6 billion deal for two Mistral-class ships in June 2011. The handover of the first ship, the Vladivostok, was scheduled for November 14, 2014 but did not take place. The second ship, the Sevastopol, is supposed to arrive in 2015.