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RUSSIA

Hollande to decide on Russian warship deal

French President Francois Hollande said on Monday that he would decide "in the coming weeks" whether or not to scrap a contentious contract to supply two warships to Russia.

Hollande to decide on Russian warship deal
Will the Mistral warships ever end up in Russian hands? The French president is set to decide. Photo: AFP

The fate of the two Mistral helicopter carriers has plagued France-Russia ties for more than a year, following the decision by Paris to put the €1.2-billion ($1.3-billion) deal on ice as the West slapped sanctions on Moscow over its annexation of Crimea and alleged backing for separatist rebels in Ukraine.

“We have contractual obligations,” Hollande told reporters on Monday, referring to the deal.

“We are in a discussion… which will require a decision that I have to take, and I will take in the coming weeks.”

The first ship was due for delivery in 2014, while the second was to be delivered this year.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has played down the importance of the 2011 deal and claimed that Russia ordered them mostly to help the French shipyard.

The Kremlin strongman has, however, made clear Moscow would still like its money back.

According to Russian newspaper Kommersant, France has offered to terminate the Mistral contract and pay back 785 million euros to Moscow, provided Paris can re-export the vessels.

While Kommersant reported France is proposing to return only the cash that was paid so far on the deal, Russia would like to have other expenses reimbursed, such as training costs for the crews and building port infrastructure in Vladivostok, where the first of the two ships was to be based.

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RUSSIA

Senior French officer held on suspicion of spying for Russia

A senior French military officer stationed at a NATO base has been indicted and jailed on suspicion of spying for Russia, local media and sources said on Sunday.

Senior French officer held on suspicion of spying for Russia
A change of command ceremony at the base of NATO’s Alliance Ground Surveillance Force in Sigonella, Italy. It is not known at which Italian Nato base the officer was stationed. Photo: Falk Plankenhorn
The French army officer was stationed abroad, a judicial source said confirming details from Europe 1 radio. According to the report, the soldier was stationed on a NATO base in Italy and is suspected of espionage on behalf of Russia.
   
The French government confirmed it was investigating a senior military officer over a “security breach”.
   
“What I can confirm is that a senior officer is facing legal proceedings for a security breach,” Defence Minister Florence Parly told Europe 1 radio, CNews and Les Echos newspaper. She gave no further details.
   
The judicial source said the officer had been indicted and jailed on charges involving “intelligence with a foreign power that undermines the fundamental interests of the nation”.
   
He is being prosecuted for “delivering information to a foreign power”, “collecting information harming the fundamental interests of the nation with a view to delivering them to a foreign power” and “compromising the secrecy of national defence”, the source said.
 
   
Europe 1 said the officer was a lieutenant-colonel stationed with NATO in Italy and had been placed under investigation on suspicion of spying for Russia.
   
He speaks Russian and was seen in Italy with a man identified as an agent of the GRU, the Russian military intelligence
service, the report said. It said he is suspected of having supplied sensitive documents to Russian intelligence.
   
The man was arrested by DGSI intelligence service as he was about to leave for Italy at the end of his holidays in France, and is being held at a prison in Paris, Europe 1 said.
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