France considering scuttling Mistral aircraft carriers rather than agree to sell the vessels to Russia because of sanctions brought in over Ukraine
- French government may sink the two warships if Russian sale falls through
- Contract is currently on ice amid pressure from America and the EU not to deliver the vessels to Moscow due to the Ukraine conflict
- But if Putin cancels the deal, France would be reluctant to spend millions converting them for its own navy
- If it cannot find a third-party buyer, the ships are expected to be scuttled
France has revealed it is considering sinking two brand new state-of-the-art warships if a deal to sell them both to Russia collapses under pressure from America and the EU.
The French government is supposed to have received a payment of €1.12 billion from Moscow for the vessels, but the transfer has been postponed amid tensions over the conflict in Ukraine.
With questions raised over whether the agreement will ever be rekindled, it has now been claimed that France would rather scuttle the warships rather than pay to keep them operational.
As it stands France looks set to lose hundreds of millions of euros on the deal if it cannot convince the US and America to allow it to go ahead, or if Russian President Vladimir Putin loses patience and cancels the contract altogether.
Delays: The first vessel, the Vladivostok (pictured), should have been handed over to Russia in November but French President Francois Hollande has revealed it has now been postponed 'until further notice'
Details of France's potential scuttling of the vessels were revealed by an unnamed officer familiar with the Russian warship deal.
'Among the possible course of actions which is being considered by the French government is the possibility of the helicopter ships being destroyed. They will be dismantled, remodeled or sunk in the open sea,' French newspaper Le Figaro wrote today after speaking with the officer.
The first vessel, the Vladivostok, should have been handed over to Russia in November but French President Francois Hollande has revealed it has now been postponed 'until further notice'.
The cost of adapting the helicopter carriers for use by the French navy is expected to run in to hundreds of millions of pounds, leaving a third party sale the only realistic option.
Le Figaro identified 'Canada, a northern country and Egypt' as possible buyers.
For its part Russia has previously said it would not oppose a sale to a third party but - according to state-funded broadcaster Russia Today - Putin has also demanded France pay out €300 million in compensation for non delivery on the contract.
Waste: With questions raised over whether the agreement between France and Russia will ever be rekindled, it has been claimed that France would rather scuttle the warships rather than pay to keep them operational
The news comes as France secured a number of buyers for its Dassault-built Rafale fighter jets, with a total of 84 sales will give the French economy a multi-billion euro boost
Global appetite for the jets has surged as a result of the United States' diminishing influence in the Arab world along with wider security concerns over the rise of Islamic State insurgents - which Paris is more than happy to assuage. Egypt, India and Qatar have all just signed contracts.
'Good things always come in four,' Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius quipped to reporters on the jet taking President Francois Hollande to the Gulf this week to sign the Qatar deal and make a rare guest appearance by a Westerner at a regional summit there.
After signing deals worth some 15 billion euros for a total of 84 aircraft, France now has the United Arab Emirates in its sights for dozens more purchases that are a much-needed boost to jobs at home, where unemployment is stuck at a high 10 percent.
'Above all, this is good news for the French economy,' Hollande said in Doha of the fruits of his 'economic diplomacy' policy, which has turned Fabius and Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian into France's top travelling salesmen.
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