Sep 4, 2014
France suspends delivery of Mistral Class warship to Russia over Ukraine
Paris agreed in 2011 to build and sell the two advanced helicopter assault ships to Russia, with the first scheduled for delivery in October or November and the second in 2015.
French leaders had refused to back down on a sale seen as crucial to a country suffering from stagnant growth and record unemployment, despite widespread condemnation due to Russia's involvement in the Ukraine crisis.
"The President of the Republic declared that, despite the prospect of a ceasefire, the conditions for France to deliver the first warship are not to date in place"
The statement came just hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin raised hope of an end to the four-month war in the former Soviet republic, calling on pro-Kremlin rebels and government forces to cease fire and agree to the broad terms of a truce.
However, a French diplomatic source told AFP that the contract is only suspended until November.
Hollande had acknowledged that France might row back on the Mistral deal in a recent interview in French daily Le Monde, before widespread accusations that Russia had sent troops into eastern Ukraine.
The planned delivery of the warships had created outrage, with President Barack Obama expressing "concerns" about the proposed sales and saying it would have been better to "hit the pause button" on the deal.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, meanwhile, said it would be "unthinkable" to fulfil such a contract in his own country, sparking a sharp riposte from Paris, which noted there were "quite a few Russian oligarchs in London".
US State Department spokeswoman Psaki greeted the suspension of the delivery as "a wise decision".
A spokeswoman for NATO chiefsaid he "has always said this is a national decision and he was confident that France would take into account the security situation".
Moscow, on the other hand, played down the importance of the blow. Russian Deputy Defence Minister Yuriy Borisov said it was "not a tragedy for us in terms of rearmament".
Since the beginning of the summer, some 400 Russian sailors have been training in western France on the operation of the first warship, named "Vladivostok".
The concern in France is that the country will not only lose the receipts from the sale, but its credibility as a weapons exporter will also be compromised.
The suspension could have a major impact on jobs at the STX dockyards in Saint-Nazaire, where the ships are being built. Union leaders at the yard said they were "stupified" by the decision, particularly since the first ship was almost finished.