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Severing of contract for Mistral carriers for Russia is out of question

Severing of the contract, under which France is building Mistral helicopter carriers for Russia, is out of the question, a well-informed source with links to shipbuilders in Saint Nazaire told Itar-Tass Wednesday in the wake of reports that President Francois Hollande had suspended the delivery of the first carrier to Russia.

He said the shipyards did not get any instructions on suspension of the works which have entered the phase of completion.

"The presidential statement speaks only about postponement of the dates of its completion," the statement said.

Along with it, the French shipbuilding company DSNS that supervises the Mistral contracts for Russia has refrained from comments. Its official spokesman told Itar-Tass the shipbuilders did not deal with political issues.

"Our official position is we don't have any comments at the moment," he said.

Earlier in the day the Elysees Palace issued a statement saying President Francois Hollande had suspended the delivery of the first helicopter carrier to Russia, as the conditions for it were allegedly improper at the moment.

The statement described the situation in Eastern Ukraine as grave. It also said the actions ostensibly undertaken by Russia recently ran counter to the main principles of security in Europe.

"The President of the Republic has concluded that that despite the prospect of ceasefire, which is yet to be confirmed and put in place, the conditions under which France could authorize the delivery of the first helicopter carrier are not present," Hollander's press service said.

A contract worth 1.12 billion euro for building Mistral helicopter carriers for the Russian Navy was signed in June 2011. At present, construction of the Vladivostok carrier is near completion in a shipyard in Saint-Nazaire - the first one of the two ships covered by the agreement.

About 400 Russian sailors are getting trained in France for service at the new helicopters. Transition of the first one to Russia was expected this autumn.

The second ship, christened the Sevastopol, was laid in June 2013 at the Baltic Plant in St Petersburg. Under the contract, the shipyard built the aft of the ship that was brought to Saint-Nazaire for the final stage of testing last week.

Initial plans indicated that the Sevasopol was to be commissioned by the Russian Navy at the end of 2015.

French authorities have been saying so far they did not see any impediments to finalization of the contract over the Mistrals. They indicated that the EU sanctions against Russia, which envisioned restrictions on defense cooperation, among other things, did not affect the agreements signed prior to the effectuation of these restrictive measures.

[Source: Itar Tass, Paris, 03Sep14]

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