Russia is close to purchasing a Mistral-class French warship and needs such a vessel to patrol waters around Pacific islands that are the subject of a long-running dispute with Japan, a top General said Tuesday.
Russia's plan to purchase the Mistral, capable of carrying up to 16 helicopters and a 750-strong landing force, alarmed some of its neighbors amid expectations it would become part of its Black Sea fleet.
"There is already a high level of readiness on the contractual obligations for the Mistral," General Nikolai Makarov told the Defense Committee of Russia's upper house. "I think that we will buy this ship."
"We need such a ship, but in the Far East it is quite simply necessary," he said according to the Interfax news agency.
He said in the region around the Kuril Islands "we need mobile means so that a landing force can be rapidly sent there at the necessary time".
Makarov's comments come 2 days ahead of a visit to France by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, where the subject of the Mistral ship is set to be a central issue.
Russia is expected to buy at least one finished vessel from France and also the right to build several more itself.
The Head of Russia's state arms trade agency said in April that the decision to buy from France had already been made at a political level.