Russia’s Industry Minister Denis Manturov said on Thursday that Moscow still expects France to provide it with the two Mistral warships, despite a decision by Paris to hold off on the delivery because of the crisis in Ukraine.
“Russia assumes that the contract will be fulfilled according to the agreements,” Manturov was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.
Manturov’s comments appear to dismiss French President François Hollande’s decision to suspend the delivery of “Vladivostok," the first of the two warships, amid mounting tensions with Russia over the situation in Ukraine.
Russian officials also accused France of bowing to the United States on the subject of the sale.
Hollande had for months resisted pressure from Washington and other allies to scrap the 1.2 billion euro ($1.58 billion) contract to deliver two Mistral helicopter carriers.
But on the eve of a NATO summit, the French president changed tack, releasing a strong statement on Wednesday saying that Russia’s recent actions in the country harmed “the foundations of security in Europe”.
“The conditions for France to deliver the first warship are not to date in place,” the statement from the Elysée Palace added.
France hedges its bets
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, however, was careful not to close the door entirely on the sale of the warships.
“The decision that the president had to take was: Are the conditions there today for the delivery. No, but we hope that they will be in the future,” Fabius said on BFMTV.
Meanwhile, Moscow has sought to play down the impact of Hollande’s decision, saying France would suffer a bigger economic blow than Russia.
“If the contract is unilaterally terminated, the money will definitely be returned to the Russian side and fines and penalties will be paid,” Oleg Bochkaryov, deputy chairman of the government’s Military-Industrial Commission which helps oversee the defence industry, told Interfax.
He said France was likely to have problems finding a new buyer as the vessel was built according to Russia’s requirements and with Russian equipment.
“If the contract is suspended, the French side’s headache will be worse than ours,” he said.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-09-04