France insists ‘still no date’ for warship delivery

France insisted on Wednesday that there was no date set for the delivery of two Mistral warships to Russia. It comes amid further reports of Russian troops entering Ukraine.

France insists 'still no date' for warship delivery
Still no date for Mistral delivery, France says. Will it ever happen? Photo: AFP

France's Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Wednesday there was still no fixed date for the delivery of two Mistral warships to Russia.

"No delivery date can be fixed at this stage," Le Drian told the National Assembly lower house of parliament.

"The president of the Republic has said that a definitive decision will come at the right moment, taking into account all the responsibilities that come with this decision, which is not a simple decision."

The first of two mammoth Mistral-class assault ships was supposed to be delivered on Friday according to the original deal signed in 2011.

But amid this year's Ukraine crisis and the rapid decline of the West's relations with Russia, France has come under intense pressure from its allies, particularly the United States, and in September postponed the delivery.

France faces a difficult choice. Ditching the contract will cost it billions of dollars and threatens jobs.

But going ahead would incur NATO's wrath and heighten fears in Poland and the Baltic states, which are concerned that Russia's recent aggression may soon turn in their direction.

Hopes that a September ceasefire between Ukrainian and pro-Russian forces might have provided a pretext for the deal to go ahead have been dashed by continued fighting and claims this week that Russia is sending more military hardware into Ukraine.

On Wednesday a top NATO commander told the BBC that Russian troops and heavy artillery had entered eastern Ukraine in recent days.

Speaking earlier this week a spokesman for France's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: "We are worried by the information coming from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) about the situation in the east of Ukraine. France calls for the application of the Minsk peace agreement, notably in respect of the cease fire and  the control of the Ukraine-Russian border.”

The amphibious assault ships can carry 16 helicopters, four landing crafts, 13 tanks, 450 soldiers and a hospital.

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Russia announces no New Year’s greetings for France, US, Germany

US President Joe Biden, France's Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will not be receiving New Year's greetings from Russian leader Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin said on Friday.

Russia announces no New Year's greetings for France, US, Germany

As the world gears up to ring in the New Year this weekend, Putin sent congratulatory messages to the leaders of Kremlin-friendly countries including Turkey, Syria, Venezuela and China.

But Putin will not wish a happy New Year to the leaders of the United States, France and Germany, countries that have piled unprecedented sanctions on Moscow over Putin’s assault on Ukraine.

“We currently have no contact with them,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

“And the president will not congratulate them given the unfriendly actions that they are taking on a continuous basis,” he added.

Putin shocked the world by sending troops to pro-Western Ukraine on February 24.

While Kyiv’s Western allies refused to send troops to Ukraine, they have been supplying the ex-Soviet country with weapons in a show of support that has seen Moscow suffer humiliating setbacks on the battlefield.