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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Talks on Mistral ship purchase still underway - Russian Defense Ministry

RIA Novosti


MOSCOW, April 7 (RIA Novosti) - Russia and France have not yet agreed on the purchase of a French helicopter carrier for the Russian Navy, a Russian deputy defense minister said on Wednesday.

Russia is negotiating the purchase of at least one Mistral-class amphibious assault ship, worth 400-500 million euros (around $540-$675 million) and plans to build three more vessels of the same class in partnership with the French naval shipbuilder DCNS.

"We are still in talks on a wide range of issues related to the purchase of French ships of this class. Primarily, these are questions of the cost, quantity, and onboard equipment," Vladimir Popovkin said.

Popovkin reiterated that Russia wanted to buy only one ship and build three more under the French license at Russian shipyards, while France planned to sell two vessels and license the construction of the remaining two ships.

"For example with the controversial Mistral, our condition is that one ship will be constructed there [in France], and the assembly of the remaining ships at our shipyards with the transfer of technology, and not just a hull, but with all the 'goodies,'" he said.

Many Russian military and industry experts have questioned the financial and military sense of the purchase, but Popovkin disagreed that the Mistral was useless for the Russian Navy.

Russia has at least four islands in the Pacific Ocean which are still disputed with Japan as well as the Kaliningrad exclave surrounded by NATO countries. In case of a potential threat to these regions, Mistrals could be used to transfer military forces to the conflict zones, he said.

"All of the decisions have been thought through. Unfortunately, the military is the type of area where we can not disclose our [military] plans or information on gaps which need to be filled," Popovkin said.

The future of the deal is still unclear because France is unlikely to agree on transferring sensitive technology that Russia could use in potential conflicts with NATO and its allies.

Director of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST) Ruslan Pukhov said on Wednesday that France would never sell the Mistral with its naval tactical data system SENIT 9 because it provides links to NATO data exchange formats.

"This system could not be sold in any case, because it contains a software which gives an opportunity to control NATO military forces," Pukhov said, adding that Russia would most likely have to install its own electronic equipment on the Mistral ships.

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