France has reportedly withdrawn its earlier plans to deliver two controversial Mistral-class warships to the Russian Navy next month, citing conditions as being ‘not right’ for deliveries amid conflicts in eastern-Ukraine.
The latest decision is said to be one of the most concrete signs yet of the Western governments’ eagerness to take a more aggressive approach in dealing with Russia over Ukraine, despite fears that the European economy, which is already fading, could be further hit by a face-off with Russia.
Russia Deputy Defence Minister Yury Borisov was quoted by ITAR-TASS as saying: "Although of course it is unpleasant and adds to certain tensions in relations with our French partners, the cancelling of this contract will not be a tragedy for our modernisation."
Russia has been criticised for its alleged role in the supply of anti-aircraft systems to rebels in eastern-Ukraine, which allegedly shot down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 that killed 298 people on-board.
The two Mistral-class vessels, which form part of a $1.52bn deal signed in 2011, are being built by DCNS at its Saint-Nazaire shipyard in France.
The first vessel for Moscow was set for delivery on 1 November, while the float out of the second vessel is expected to take place in October.
The deal also involved Russia’s procurement of two more Mistral-class vessels to be built in Russia and France.
The 199m-long, 22,000t Mistral-class ships can launch helicopter, tank and missile attacks from the sea, further bolstering the military strength of the Russian forces.
The vessels, which are capable of cruising at a maximum speed of 19k, are integrated with an MRR-3D NG surveillance radar and a high-performance communications suite for humanitarian operations and several other missions.
Image: The French Navy’s amphibious assault ship Mistral soon after its launch. Photo: courtesy of Rama.