Russia No Longer Interested in Buying French Warships

Russia says it no longer wants the helicopter carriers France is refusing to deliver.

The Mistral class helicopter carrier Vladivostok in the port of Saint Nazaire, France, May 9, 2014
The Mistral class helicopter carrier Vladivostok in the port of Saint Nazaire, France, May 9, 2014 (Bernard Grua)

Russia said on Tuesday it was no longer interested in buying two helicopter carriers from France which had suspended the delivery of the vessels over the crisis in Ukraine.

“Russia won’t take them,” said Oleg Bochkaryov, deputy chief of the government body that oversees the defense industry, according to Russian media.

Now there’s only one discussion, concerning the money sum that should be returned to Russia.

Vladimir Gutenev, first deputy member of the Duma‘s Committee for Industry, told the TASS news agency he was sure Russia could build a more powerful version of the French carrier itself.

But Russian officials have also said they don’t want France to sell the two ships to another country.

“Both Mistral helicopter carriers were built for the Russian navy, for our helicopters, our control systems, our infrastructure,” said Yury Yakubov, a senior Defense Ministry official, earlier this month.

These vessels cannot be given away to some third country now under any circumstances. This is a matter of state security.

Each of the two ships can carry up to sixteen helicopters and sixty armored vehicles. France operates three of its own.

The €1.2 billion euro contract for the sale was signed in 2011 by former French president Nicolas Sarkozy.

Russia names the warships Vladivostok and Sevastopol, the second after the capital of the Crimea, the seizure of which by Russia last year compelled France to suspend the deal.

It would have been the first sale of military hardware by a NATO ally to Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Unlike the United Kingdom, the United States and former Soviet satellite states in Eastern Europe, France has not taken a hard line with Russia over its aggression in Ukraine. Incumbent president François Hollande invited his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, to attend the anniversary celebrations of the D-Day landing in Normandy last year despite the protests of NATO allies and later helped negotiate a ceasefire for the violence in southeastern Ukraine.

Russia still denies it supports the uprising in Ukraine’s Donbas region where fighting continues despite the truce.