Russia has reportedly threatened to sue the French government after it refused to hand over a helicopter carrier Moscow ordered.Yuri Borisov, the country’s deputy minister of defence, was quoted by the Tass news agency as threatening legal action unless a political settlement was reached following the decision by French president Francois Hollande to indefinitely delay the delivery.
“Everything is laid down in the contract, we will act in accordance with the letter of the contract as all civilised people do,” he added.
France has been under pressure from allies for months to scrap the €1.2bn (£950m) contract because of Russia’s actions in Ukraine, which have resulted in tough economic sanctions being imposed on Moscow.
A Russian crew was already aboard the first of the two French-made ships, to be named Vladivostok, in Saint-Nazaire to begin the process of familiarisation.
Construction of the second vessel, to be named after the Crimean port city of Sevastopol, is understood to remain on track.
The statement from the French president’s office said: “The President of the Republic considers that the situation in the east of Ukraine still does not permit the delivery of the first BPC (helicopter carrying and command vessel).
“He has therefore decided that it is appropriate to suspend, until further notice, examination of the request for the necessary authorisation to export the first BCP to the Russian Federation.”
Russian MP Leonid Slutskiy weighed into the row by insisting that if Russia chose to sue France it would “immediately win the case”.
“This decision is against themselves, not us. The military-industrial complex of Russia will not suffer from this,” he said.
The fallout from Russia’s intervention in Ukraine has resulted in a heightening of military tensions with the West.
The ships, which can carry up to 48 helicopters, have a range of 11,000 miles and a top speed of almost 19 knots.
They also possess an amphibious assault capability, with the French Navy currently having three in service.