Mistral ship delivery to Russia scheduled for Nov 14 likely to be delayed - source

A Russian delegation which was supposed to attend the November 14 ceremony transferring the first Mistral-class helicopter carrier built at French shipyards to Russia is not leaving Moscow for now, a source in an organization involved in military-technological cooperation told Interfax-AVN on Thursday.

A Russian delegation which was supposed to attend the November 14 ceremony transferring the first Mistral-class helicopter carrier built at French shipyards to Russia is not leaving Moscow for now, a source in an organization involved in military-technological cooperation told Interfax-AVN on Thursday.

"There has been no confirmation that the ship will be transferred on November 14, so it has been decided to not send the delegation to Saint Nazaire," the source noted.

According to the source, the Russian delegation comprises officials of the Defense Ministry, Rosoboronexport, the United Shipbuilding Corporation and some other entities.

"Most probably, the French side will present this situation as a force majeure circumstance and use its right to postpone the transfer for three months," he said.

The contract allows for this possibility, but the delay has to derive from technical problems with helicopter ship trials or commissioning rather than a political situation, he explained.

"So far, the French side has not mentioned any technical problems with the transfer of the ship. At the same time, political problems are obvious. There will be no progress made until French President Francois Hollande announces his decision to hand over the ship to Russia," he said.

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said earlier that Russian officials had been formally invited to visit France on November 14 for the transfer of the Mistral-class helicopter carrier. It was also reported that the ship had completed the entire trial cycle and was ready to be transferred to the Russian Navy.

Russian state arms trader Rosoboronexport and France's DCNS signed a contract to build two Mistral-class helicopter carriers in June 2011. St. Petersburg-based Baltiysky Zavod, part of the United Shipbuilding Corporation, built the sterns. The STX France Saint Nazaire shipyard attached the sterns to the bows and put the finishing touches to the ships.

However, French President Francois Hollande said this September that a final decision regarding the delivery of Mistral-class helicopter carriers to Russia would be made in late October and would depend on how events in Ukraine develop. He emphasized that the decision would be determined by the presence of a ceasefire and a political agreement between the parties involved in the Ukrainian conflict.

Nevertheless, the ongoing sanctions on Russia allow for the execution of previous military-technological contracts. A number of NATO countries, primarily the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and Poland, have repeatedly tried to persuade France not to deliver the Mistral-class ships to Russia.

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