Russia has disbanded the crews of two French-made Mistral-class helicopter carriers, whose delivery was canceled by France in November 2014 in response to Moscow’s alleged involvement in the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine, a report said Friday. Both countries are currently said to be working on a tentative agreement on compensation payable to Moscow over Paris’ decision to suspend the delivery of the aircraft carriers.
“The Mistral crews have been disbanded. The sailors will continue to serve on the ships of the Pacific Fleet,” the Moscow Times quoted a source in the Russian navy as saying to Interfax news agency. Nearly 500 people were reportedly training to serve on the Mistral-class warships.
Kremlin-controlled Tass news agency, however, contradicted the Interfax report, saying that the crews had not been disbanded, and were currently undergoing training in the navy. Tass also said, citing a “military-diplomatic source,” that the crews can be disbanded only after a final decision is made on the carriers.
“In any case, these people will be in demand,” the source told Tass on Friday. “Many new ships are built for the Russian Navy, where trained specialists may prove useful.”
The reports come a week after Kremlin-backed Sputnik news agency reported that Moscow and Paris were ready for an agreement on compensation for the non-delivery of the warships. The deal, which will cost France about $1.3 billion, must now be approved by Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Francois Hollande, Sputnik reported.
Russian presidential aide Vladimir Kozhin also recently said that the Mistral affairs would be resolved during the summer. “I believe that we shall see a full stop in the near future. Either, or. Either the ships or the money,” Tass quoted Kozhin as saying.
According to the terms of a $1.5 billion deal struck between Russia and France in June 2011, the first Mistral-class ship, known as the “Vladivostok,” was scheduled to be delivered to Russia by the end of 2014, while the second ship, known as the “Sevastopol,” was set to be handed over in 2015.
Meanwhile, Russia has reportedly planned to build its own helicopter carriers to replace the two Mistral vessels. Russia also claimed that the new ships would be better than their French counterparts, and are expected to be delivered to the navy in 2020.