France has delayed delivery of a pair of warships it was contracted to sell to Russia, citing the Ukraine crisis.
France has said conditions are “not right” for delivery of the first of two Mistral navy assault ships to Russia.
President Francois Hollande’s office blamed Moscow’s recent actions in Ukraine.
France had until now resisted pressure to halt the delivery, saying it had to respect an existing contract.
Mistral-class ships are France’s most up-to-date amphibious assault ships. They can also serve as electronic command ships.
Each ship has the payload capacity and versatility to carry up to 16 heavy helicopters and one-third of a mechanised regiment, plus two LCAC hovercraft or up to four landing craft.
The ship has the capacity to carry up to 16 medium or heavy helicopters below deck, for example the NH90, SA 330 Puma, AS 532 U2 Cougar or AS 665 Tiger helicopters. The flight deck has six landing spots and a 1,800m² hangar. The 5,000m² flight deck can accommodate up to six helicopter movements simultaneously.
They might prove useful should Russia decide to open up a third front on Ukraine by going around Crimea to strike Ukraine’s southeast. Russian forces are already engaged in Ukraine’s west, both in the north and the south. Russia could use the navy base at Sevastopol for such an amphibious move.
If it had the French ships.