Clock ticking on Mistral decision, Russia tells France
Russia will gladly take back the money it paid for French Mistral-class warships whose handover has been delayed by concerns over Moscow's role in the Ukraine crisis, a deputy defence minister said Saturday.
Yury Borisov also indicated that Paris should make a decision before the new year.
"It doesn't matter if the calendar shows December 31, 2014 or January 1, 2015, but we are waiting for France's decision", Interfax news agency quoted him as saying.
"We would be content with either development - the Mistrals or the return of all the invested money," he said.
Given the currency crisis in Russia, which saw the ruble rapidly devalue by 50 percent, taking the money from the euro-denominated deal "may actually be preferable," he added.
France, which is struggling economically, is faced with a tough decision: deliver the two mammoth warships to Russia and face the wrath of its NATO allies or end up with two vessels equipped for the Russian navy and pay the price and possibly heavy fines.
The agreement for the helicopter carriers worth 1.2 billion euros ($1.5 billion) was signed long before Moscow's annexation of Crimea and support of the pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Paris has so far delayed delivery of the first warship, which was set for fall of 2014, "until further notice."
This week Russian sailors training to operate the Mistrals - each of which can carry 16 helicopters, four landing crafts, 13 tanks and over 400 soldiers - left France.
© 2014 AFP