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Electronic equipment stolen from Mistral helicopter carrier built for Russia - media
Electronic equipment has been stolen from a Mistral helicopter carrier France built for Russia, French media reported Friday.
The Russian embassy in France has neither confirmed nor denied the reports about the alleged theft from a Mistral stationed in the French port of Saint-Nazaire. "We have no such data as of now," the mission told TASS.
There were conflicting reports: Le Point magazine said the theft occurred on board the Vladivostok ship, but Agence France Presse said the talk was about the second ship, the Sevastopol, floated recently.
The news agency said two computer hard disks, a motherboard and a graphics board disappeared. A device that contained helicopter carrier communications system management software was also stolen. All these were manufactured and installed by French military and technical corporation Thales.
The prosecutor's office of the French city of Rennes started a preliminary investigation over the theft of equipment. France Presse cited legal sources as saying the stolen equipment did not contain any secret information. The computer program was specially developed by Thales on Russia's order and can only be used on that vessel modification.
Le Point said no traces of breaking were discovered at the theft sites. Investigators currently have no versions of what happened. A French defense source said the Russian side is not suspected of stealing the equipment.
The theft was discovered November 25, but investigators said it could have been carried out in the November 18-25 period.
A spokesman for French state-owned shipbuilder DCNS, which designed the Mistral, Emmanuel Gaudez, confirmed to TASS that the stolen equipment did not contain any secret data.
"The talk is about the Sevastopol helicopter carrier. Electronic equipment was really stolen from it, as media report. I can confirm that it did not contain any secret or official data," Gaudez said. He declined to specify what kind of equipment had been stolen.
Delphine Gledel, a spokeswoman for constructor STX, which is the DCNS's subcontractor in the Mistral contract, confirmed to a TASS correspondent that the equipment had been stolen from the Sevastopol.
"I can confirm that the theft took place, but the stolen electronic equipment contained no secret data," Gledel said.
"Currently construction work on board the recently floated helicopter carrier Sevastopol continues," the spokeswoman said.
The 1.12-billion-euro contract to build the Mistral amphibious assault ships for the Russian navy was signed in June 2011. In case it is not implemented, France will have to pay Russia a penalty fee.
The first Mistral, the Vladivostok, was floated in October 2013. In September 2014, despite the fact that the handover issue is unresolved, the vessel took to the sea with Russian sailors on board during trials.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said October 29 that the first Mistral helicopter carrier would be handed over to Russia by the French side on November 14, but the handover did not take place. The second Mistral, the Sevastopol, is to be delivered next year.
France suspended the delivery of Mistrals to Russia as part of a package of sanctions the European countries imposed on Moscow for what they claimed was its alleged role in destabilization of southeastern Ukraine.
French Finance Minister Michel Sapin said in late October the conditions have not yet been met to deliver Mistral helicopter carriers to Russia. As the key condition for the handover of the vessels, Paris has repeatedly mentioned settlement of the situation in Ukraine and implementation of the Minsk agreements.
Russian officials and companies came under the first batch of Western sanctions, including visa bans and asset freezes, after Russia incorporated Crimea in mid-March after a coup in Ukraine in February.
The West announced new sectoral penalties against Russia in late July over Moscow's position on Ukrainian events, in particular, what the West claimed was Russia's alleged involvement in hostilities in Ukraine's embattled southeast.
In response, Russia imposed on August 6 a one-year ban on imports of beef, pork, poultry, fish, cheeses, fruit, vegetables and dairy products from Australia, Canada, the European Union, the United States and Norway.
Moscow has repeatedly dismissed Western allegations that it could in any way be involved in hostilities in the southeast of Ukraine.
Crisis in southeast Ukraine
Fierce clashes between troops loyal to Kiev and local militias in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions during Kiev's military operation, conducted since mid-April, to regain control over the breakaway territories, which call themselves the Donetsk and Lugansk People's republics, have killed over 4,000 people, brought massive destruction and forced hundreds of thousands to flee Ukraine's southeast.
The parties to the Ukrainian conflict agreed on a ceasefire at talks mediated by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on September 5 in Belarusian capital Minsk two days after Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed his plan to settle the situation in the east of Ukraine.
The ceasefire took effect the same day but has reportedly occasionally been violated.
[Source: Itar Tass, Paris, 28Nov14]
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