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France should decide on Mistrals: implement contract or return money -- official

It's time France made up its mind about Mistral helicopter carriers, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said Thursday.

"There have been many statements on the part of the French defense and foreign ministers on Mistrals, but there is the contract that needs to be implemented," Lukashevich said. "Certain sums were transferred for this contract."

"If the French side has new options, there's no need to use methods of megaphone diplomacy," the diplomat said. "And the French side should make up its mind. In the summer, there were some statements, now the talk is different. But if not, money should be returned."

Russia-France Mistral dispute

In September, French President Francois Hollande said in current conditions Paris found delivery of first Mistral helicopter carrier "impossible" due to the situation in Ukraine.

However, Hollande said France did not reject the deal as it is.

Under the contract, each Mistral ship has to be built by France within 36 months. The first of them, the Vladivostok, is to arrive in St. Petersburg from Saint-Nazaire, France, in December 2014. In St. Petersburg it will be equipped with Russian weapons, military hardware and systems. After that and the crew training, the Vladivostok will sail off to its base in the Pacific Fleet.

Apart from these two ships, Russia has also purchased French technology for the combat information control and communications systems.

Mistral-type helicopter carrier

Mistral landing helicopter carriers will perform four tasks at the same time: receive helicopters, land troops, act as a command post and a floating hospital.

Mistral-type helicopter carriers have a displacement of 21 tons, the maximum body length of 210 meters, the speed of 18 knots and the range of up to 20,000 miles.

Each ship will carry a group of 16 helicopters. Six of them can be deployed on the flight-deck at the same time. The cargo deck can accommodate more than 40 tanks or 70 motor vehicles.

Russia is buying the French helicopter carrier Mistral with French equipment, including combat navigation devices, but will arm it with its own weaponry. The Mistral ships will carry upgraded Russian Ka-32 Alligator attack helicopters.

[Source: Itar Tass, Moscow, 09Oct14]

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