French warship in arms deal to visit Russia

1st November 2009, Comments 0 comments

France will send a warship to Russia in November in the run up to an unprecedented deal to sell it a helicopter carrier, a top defence ministry official said, RIA Novosti reported.

Moscow - France will send a warship to Russia in November in the run up to an unprecedented deal to sell it a helicopter carrier, a top defence ministry official said, RIA Novosti reported.

"In November, the Mistral helicopter carrier will arrive on a visit to Saint Petersburg," the first deputy chief of the navy general staff, Oleg Burtsev, told the news agency.

Burtsev also confirmed that Russia was planning to purchase one of the Mistral warships and to construct a further four warships under licence.

"We plan to buy one Mistral-class ship in France and with technical support from the French to build four helicopter carriers of this class under licence," Burtsev told the news agency.

Burtsev said that he attended talks on the warship deal in France two weeks ago and that France agreed to Russia's proposal to buy the ship, RIA Novosti reported.

The Mistral warship can carry 16 heavy helicopters, landing-craft and troops and can also act as a command and control vessel.

Burtsev did not name a price, but the ship is set to cost up to EUR 500 million (USD 740 million) RIA Novosti reported, citing French media.

The Russian armed forces chief of staff, General Nikolai Makarov, said in August that Moscow planned to buy a Mistral in an unprecedented deal that experts said reflected Kremlin efforts to accelerate military modernisation.

The naval commander-in-chief Vladimir Vysotsky raised questions over the deal in September when he said that Russia might look to Spain or the Netherlands to buy the ship-building technology.

Since World War II Russia has insisted on producing all military hardware for its own use and export, but it has failed to keep up with the West.

In recent years, Russia has talked a lot about modernising its armed forces, which still rely heavily on Soviet-era equipment, and steadily increased its procurement budgets during Vladimir Putin's presidency.

The Mistral-class warships would be based at Russia's northern and Pacific fleets but might also be used against Somalian pirates, Burtsev said.

"The ships are being acquired for troop-carrying, peace-keeping and rescue operations. What's more, this ship can be effectively used for fighting pirates, including those off the coast of Somalia," Burtsev told RIA Novosti.

Russia is one of several countries to have sent naval ships to the coast of Somalia to try to combat the rising tide of attacks on vessels passing through the strategic Gulf of Aden.

In the most recent attack, Somali pirates seized a Thai fishing trawler with a crew including 23 Russian sailors, the Russian foreign ministry said Friday.

AFP/Expatica

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