Hollande rejects 'pressure' over warship delivery to Russia

AFP - [email protected]
Hollande rejects 'pressure' over warship delivery to Russia

French President Francois Hollande said Sunday he would not be pressured into delivering two warships to Russia, after delaying their handover due to the Ukraine crisis.


"I will take my decision without any pressure, wherever it may come from, and based on two criteria -- the interests of France and the understanding I have of the situation," Hollande told a press conference after the G20 summit.

"There is no pressure of time either," he said, adding that for now the contract had not been broken and so there was no compensation issue.

Russia on Friday reportedly warned of "serious" consequences unless Paris delivers the first of two Mistral-class helicopter carriers on order by the end of November.

The handover has been delayed due to Western concern at Moscow's role in the Ukraine crisis.

President Vladimir Putin on Saturday called on Hollande to "minimise the risks" between their countries after months of growing tensions when they met on the margins of the summit, but did not mention the warships.

"The Mistral question has not been raised at all here, neither by G20 partners nor by President Putin during our meeting because it was not the place," Hollande said.

With Moscow expecting the first of the two French carriers to be delivered on November 14th, Russia's state news agency RIA Novosti quoted a high-ranking Moscow source as saying Friday: "We are preparing for different scenarios.

"We are waiting until the end of the month, then we will lodge serious claims."

Under the original deal signed in 2011 when Nicolas Sarkozy was president, the cost of the two vessels was put at a combined €1.2 ($1.5 billion).

Sarkozy on Saturday urged Hollande to "honour his word" and authorise the delivery.

But with this year's Ukraine crisis and the rapid decline in the West's relations with Russia, France has come under intense pressure from allies, particularly the United States, not to supply the vessels.

In September, Paris postponed the delivery of the ships indefinitely and Hollande has repeatedly said the ceasefire in Ukraine had to be fully respected before the first ship could be handed over.

Russia denies involvement in the Ukraine conflict, but Western powers fear a possible escalation in fighting.

Seven months of fighting in eastern Ukraine have claimed the lives of more than 4,000 people, according to UN figures.

The ceasefire agreed in September has stopped fighting along much of the front line, but not artillery bombardments around strategic hotspots.



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