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France/Russia - military deal

Russian navy wants four Mistral warships, as French arms sales rocket

Article published on the 2010-02-08 Latest update 2010-02-08 12:51 TU

The Mistral docked in Brest(Photo: French Ministry of Defence)

The Mistral docked in Brest
(Photo: French Ministry of Defence)

Russia’s navy intends to buy four command ships from France, according to the French defence ministry. France had already agreed in principal to sell the Russians one Mistral-class warship. This coincided with the announcement on Monday that French arms sales reached almost eight billion euros in 2009, 21 per cent higher than 2008.

“It’s no longer one command ship, but four,” Jacques de Lajugie, head of international sales at the French defence ministry, said on Monday.

However he added that at the moment it was a “technical inquiry” and needed to be vetted at a political level.

It is also thought that France would face competition from other countries keen to fulfil Russia’s requirements.

Discussions about the purchase of a Mistral-class vessel first began in November last year, when Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visited France.

Russia does not have an equivalent to the 21,000-tonne amphibious assault ship, which can carry helicopters, landing craft and tanks. Originally it was thought Russia would build four more under license.

The announcement came as US Defence Secretary Robert Gates arrived in Paris for talks with French Defence Minister Herve Morin.

Although these discussions were set to focus on Iran’s nuclear ambitions and the war in Afghanistan, the AFP news agency cited a US official travelling with Gates as saying “we have questions” about the warship order.

Also on Monday, the French defence ministry announced that arms sales reached 7.95 billion euros in 2009, more than a fifth higher than the previous year.