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Determinative talks on Mistral to be held soon

Determinative talks on Mistral to be held soon 22.04.2011
Text: RIA Novosti
Photo: forum-msk.org
Determinative round of negotiations between Russian and French governments meant to define future of Mistral contract is expected to be held on coming Wednesday, reports RIA Novosti referring to a source in Russian defense industry.

According to the source, there are some problems in the negotiating process. The disputable issue is the ship's configuration, in particular, the parties cannot agree on tactical data system Zenith-9 and fleet command/control system SIC-21.

"French partners are ready to deliver Zenith-9 system without production license, but blankly deny delivery of SIC-21. Russia wants to purchase fully-equipped Mistrals", said the source.

This information was virtually confirmed by the head of the state-led company Rostehnologii Sergei Chemezov, having stated that problems around Mistral are related to the technology transfer matter. "Indeed, that's a problem. From the very beginning, we said the overall price should have included technology transfer. That issue seemed to be settled at the summit level. However, when direct negotiators started talks the process was stuck. Now we're trying to come to terms", Chemezov said.

The source specified neither where the negotiations are to be held nor who would take part in them. As is known, the contract is supervised by vice premier and director general of United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC) Igor Sechin from Russian side, and the presidential envoy General Benoit Puga.

"Once the coming talks are not successful for Russia and our negotiators fail to bring the French over, we would in fact face a dilemma whether to abandon this contract or to start from scratch", commented the interviewee. On Tuesday Russian president Dmitry Medvedev released from office deputy Navy Deputy Commander for Armaments VADM Nikolai Borisov who had represented Russia at the Mistral talks. Nevertheless, Borisov's dismissal has no relation with negotiations on the landing ships but was caused by internal reasons, said a source in defense ministry. Alongside with that, some experts reported to RIA Novosti that the ouster was a kind of a curtsy to France indicating Russia's readiness to continue negotiations on Mistrals.

Intergovernmental agreement on procurement of French Mistral class assault landing ships was tied on Jan 25, 2011. It specified neither deadlines nor costs of the future contract; they will be set in a separate agreement to be signed by Rosoboronexport (Russia) and DCNS (France). Earlier on, deputy defense minister Vladimir Popovkin said the contract was evaluated as at least EUR 1.5 bln.

Russia and France officially declared late in Dec 2010 that consortium of USC and DCNS would build two Mistral class ships in Saint-Nazaire (France) and other two Ц in Russia under license. The tender was issued by Russian defense ministry in Oct 2010.

Displacement of Mistral class assault landing ship is 21,000 tons; overall length is 210 meters; speed is over 18 knots; fuel range is 20,000 miles; crew is 160 men plus 450 marines, 13 main battle tanks or 70 trucks; air wing includes 16 helicopters, six of them can be placed on the flight deck.

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