France’s cancellation last year of a deal to sell two Mistral helicopter carriers to Russia is not considered a major issue there, a top Kremlin official said Friday. The two nations have been disputing the ships' status since late last year, when the French opted not to deliver the constructed ships to Russia over concerns about its purported intervention in war-torn eastern Ukraine.
“At the moment, this issue is not in the category of problematic ones,” Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for President Vladimir Putin, told the Russian state-run news outlet Tass. Peskov reiterated that French and Russian officials agreed in late April that the Mistral deal would be considered closed upon delivery of either the ships or their corresponding financial value.
“Moscow is prepared for either solution – the product or the money,” Peskov said. He declined to discuss how much money Russia would expect from France as reimbursement for the reneged transaction.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also commented on the Mistral situation Friday, stating that any rift over the deal that may have existed between France and Russia has been settled. “The foreign policy aspects of the Mistral issue, including the reliability of partners, have long been cleared up,” Lavrov said, according to Tass. “Frankly speaking, I have long lost interest in the affair, because it has acquired a purely legal and commercial dimension.”
Signed in 2011, the Mistral deal called for France to build and sell two helicopter carriers to Russia -- the first of which was due for delivery by the end of 2014. But the French backed out of the transaction last fall after the European Union imposed economic sanctions on the Kremlin for its annexation of Crimea and evidence that Russia had provided direct support to separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.
The Mistral helicopter carriers are fully completed, and France has yet to decide what it will do with them. French officials have reportedly considered selling the carriers to another country, such as China, Brazil or Canada. France has not reimbursed Russia its initial payment of 890 million euros ($1 billion), according to reports. The deal’s cancellation could ultimately cost France up to 5 billion euros ($5.7 billion) in compensatory payments, French newspaper Le Point reported this week.