As Russia moved to annex Crimea, defying the US and Europe, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said France would consider cancelling a €1.2 billion contract to sell the Russian Navy two Mistral helicopter carriers.
Speaking during an interview on French television channel TF1 on Monday, Fabius described as illegal last weekend’s referendum over whether Crimea should secede from Ukraine and join Russia. He called the situation “the most serious crisis since the end of the Cold War”.
“If [Russian President Vladimir] Putin continues like he’s been doing, at that moment we can envisage cancelling these sales,” Fabius said, referring to the two Mistral helicopter carriers.
But he warned that such a move would only be made if there was a third round of sanctions against Russia, stressing that cancelling the contracts would also hurt France. He said that he would call on other countries, in particular Britain, to take similar actions with the interests of Russian oligarchs in London, for example.
On Tuesday the crisis intensified as Putin signed a treaty making Crimea a part of Russia. Although the measure has yet to be approved by Russia’s parliament, it was a sign that the Kremlin has so far been unfazed by US and European sanctions.
In response, Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague announced that his country had suspended all bilateral military cooperation with Russia. US Vice-President Joe Biden said that further sanctions would be imposed against Russia, adding to the travel bans and asset freezes already targeting high-profile Russian and Ukrainian officials.
France made the lucrative deal to sell the carriers to Russia in 2011, attracting criticism from several of its NATO allies who feared Russia’s military resurgence following the 2008 Georgian war. The ships, which were built in the western French port city of Saint-Nazaire, were scheduled to be delivered to Russia by the last quarter of 2014.
Date created : 2014-03-18