The second Mistral-class helicopter carrier currently under construction at a shipyard in Saint Nazaire, France, for the Russian Navy has been floated out, a military-diplomatic source told Interfax-AVN on Friday.
"The helicopter carrier Sevastopol was floated out at 3:00 a.m. local time on Friday," the source said.
On Thursday, the first Mistral-type helicopter carrier, the Vladivostok, was transferred to the opposite shore of the port and was moored alongside the dry cargo carrier Bartholomeus, he said.
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 developed. 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.
The Mistral-class helicopter carrier is 199 meters long and 32 meters wide. Its height at the flight deck is 27 meters, its draught is 6.42 meters and it has a displacement of 22,600 tonnes. The vessel can move at up to 18.5 knots. It has a crew of 177 people, and it can carry 481 passengers.
As many as 400 Russian Navy sailors, who were trained to operate Mistral-class helicopter carriers, are currently awaiting the transfer of the first such ship, the Vladivostok, to the Russian Navy in Saint Nazaire. They are staying on board the training ship Smolny.
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