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Russia, France struggle over Mistral contract

RIA Novosti

04:18 16/03/2011 PARIS, March 16 (RIA Novosti) - A Russian-French contract on the construction of Mistral class helicopter carriers for the Russian Navy is unlikely to be signed in the near future, a Russian deputy defense minister said.

Russia and France in January signed an intergovernmental agreement to jointly build two Mistral-class helicopter carriers at the STX shipyard in Saint-Nazaire, France. Another two are planned to be constructed later at the Admiralty Shipyards in St. Petersburg.

However, the sides have since experienced difficulties in agreeing the terms of the actual contract between Russian state-arms exporter Rosoboronexport and French DCSN company.

"The negotiations have not been easy so far, I would even describe them as tough," Anatoly Antonov told reporters in Paris on Tuesday during a visit of Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov to France.

"It is too early to talk about specific dates, and too many technical details have yet to be settled. The contract must be adapted to our conditions. Experts will have to do a difficult and skillful job to adjust all parameters of the future contract," Antonov said.

The official added that Russia prioritized the purchase of Mistrals with full technology transfer. The overall price of the contract was also a "big issue," he said.

According to Russian media, the initial talks in February reached an impasse after France increased the total price tag from 980 milllion euros to at least 1.15 billion euros for the first two ships to be built in France.

In addition, France insists on signing a separate contract for licensed construction of two Mistrals in Russia.

Antonov said Russia would not push for a quick conclusion of negotiations because their results must meet the interests and requirements of both sides.

A Mistral class ship is capable of carrying 16 helicopters, four landing vessels, 70 armored vehicles, and 450 personnel.

Russia plans to deploy the first two Mistral ships in the Pacific to protect the four Kuril Islands, which Russia has disputed with Japan since World War II.



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