Russian MoD cagey on warship contract with France
17:15 16/03/2011 MOSCOW, March 16 (RIA Novosti) - A contract with France on the construction of modern warships for Russia will be signed when it is ready, Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said on Wednesday.
Russia and France signed an intergovernmental agreement in January on four Mistral-class helicopter carriers - two to be built at the STX shipyard in Saint-Nazaire, France, and two in Russia under French license.
"At present negotiations are ongoing on only two ships," Serdyukov said after his working visit to France on Tuesday.
"The scheme of the deal is this: We sign an agency contract with [Russian arms export monopoly] Rosoboronexport, which will procure two warships for the ministry," he said.
"Who the French sign a contract with as subcontractors is the question."
Russia would like the United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC) to be part of the deal.
"We are interested in two ships on which the French would be under formal obligation to provide post-sales servicing," Serdyukov said.
He said his talks in France were short, "about 40 minutes," but constructive.
Serdyukov said he had made arrangements for his new French counterpart, Gerard Longuet, to visit Russia on April 14-15.
Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said last Tuesday a contract was unlikely to be signed in the foreseeable future.
According to some media reports, talks in early March between Rosoboronexport and France's DCSN company reached an impasse after France upped the price from 980 million euros to at least 1.15 billion euros for the first two ships.
Russia also wants the price of construction licenses and technical documentation to be included in the contract, while France insists they should be sold separately for an additional 90 million euros.
A Mistral-class ship is capable of carrying 16 helicopters, four landing vessels, 70 armored vehicles, and 450 personnel.
A number of Russia's neighbors have expressed concern over the upcoming deal, in particular Georgia and Lithuania, although a Russian Defense Ministry source said in early February the ships would be inducted with the Pacific Fleet to protect the South Kuril Islands claimed by Japan.
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