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Russia, France to hold further warship talks

RIA Novosti

15:32 14/12/2009 MOSCOW, December 14 (RIA Novosti) - Russian and French delegations will meet later this month to discuss the possible sale of a French warship, a Russian Defense Ministry source said on Monday.

The chief of the General Staff said last Tuesday that Russia would decide by the end of 2009 whether to purchase a Mistral class amphibious assault ship from France.

The source said Russia was not interested in buying just one warship.

"What is of principal interest is shipbuilding technology that will enable the domestic defense industry to build similar ships. That is our unequivocal and categorical position," he said.

He stressed that it was "senseless and wrong" to speak of buying weapon systems for the Navy without obtaining appropriate advanced technology for their subsequent production in Russia.

"This fully applies to the purchase of helicopter carriers abroad," he said.

The source also said that talks on the purchase of warships of the same class were ongoing not only with France but also with the Netherlands and Spain.

The Defense Ministry said last Wednesday that a final decision should be based on "a thorough assessment of the effectiveness of [French] technology in the framework of domestic shipbuilding program."

Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin said in late November that Russia could build its own helicopter carrier on a par with the French Mistral-class warship, and that the Defense Ministry could contract the United Shipbuilding Corporation to build it.

The Russian military earlier announced that it was considering buying one of the Mistral-class ships, worth 400-500 million euros (around $600-$750 mln), and potentially building three or four vessels of the same class in partnership with the French naval shipbuilder DCNS.

A Mistral-class ship is capable of transporting and deploying 16 helicopters, four landing barges, up to 70 vehicles including 13 battle tanks, and 450 soldiers. The vessel is equipped with a 69-bed hospital and can be used as an amphibious command ship.

Many Russian military and industry experts have questioned the financial and military sense of the purchase.

Russia's current arms procurement program through 2015 does not provide for construction or purchases of large warships, so the acquisition of a French warship is more likely under a new program, through 2020, which has yet to be developed.

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