France delays decision on warships sale to Russia

In this photo taken on March 5, 2014 The Vladivostok warship, a Mistral class LHD amphibious vessel ordered by Russia to the STX France shipyard in Saint-Nazaire, western France, leaves for her first trial

France on Thursday resisted pressure to suspend the controversial sale of two Mistral warships to Russia over the Crimea crisis, insisting it would not make any decision before October.

“The delivery of the first boat is due in October, so the question of a suspension will arise in October,” Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.

Britain and Germany have both this week suspended military exports to Russia in protest at what they see as Moscow’s illegal seizure of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine.

Le Drian reiterated France’s position that a suspension of the 1.2 billion euro ($1.4 billion) Mistral contract could only happen as part of a broader package of economic sanctions against Russia implemented by the European Union.