The Baltic fleet's training ship Smolny carrying the crews of two Mistral-class helicopter carriers Vladivostok and Sevastopol with return from Saint-Nazaire, France, to Russia before the New Year holidays, a high-ranking source in the sphere of military-technical cooperation told Interfax-AVN on Thursday.
"A total of 400 sailors from the crews of the landing ships will return to Russia before the end of this month aboard the Smolny, which has been a floating barracks for them for six months," the source said.
"The return of the crews is in no way connected to the absence of a final decision by the French authorities on whether the helicopter carriers will or will not be provided to Russia," the source said. "It was made due to the care for the sailors, who have been away from their homeland for six months," the source said.
"If Paris decides to provide [Russia with] the Vladivostok, its crew can return to Saint-Nazaire by plane," the source said.
The Russian state-controlled arms trader Rosoboronexport and the French company DCNS signed a contract for the construction of the first two Mistral-class helicopter carriers for the Russian Navy in June 2011. The ships' sterns were manufactured at the Baltiysky Plant of the United Shipbuilding Corporation. Their connection to the bows and completion took place at the STX France shipyard in Saint-Nazaire.
The Russian crew of the Mistral helicopter carrier at the Saint-Nazaire shipyard is performing its routine duties, and no steps have been taken to tighten security, the Russian Defense Ministry told Interfax earlier.
The sanctions imposed on Russia stipulate that military-technological contracts concluded earlier have to be fulfilled. 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 ships to Russia.
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