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The chief of the Russian General Staff said Thursday that Russia would only buy a fully-equipped Mistral-class amphibious assault ship from France.
Russia is negotiating the purchase of a Mistral-class ship from France, worth 400-500 million euros (around $540-$675 million). Russia could also use French technology later to build another three such vessels in Russia in partnership with the French naval shipbuilder DCNS.
"Russia's leadership and Defense Ministry have a clear position on the issue. Should a final decision be made on Mistral, we will purchase this ship only if it is fully equipped - with all control and navigation means and armaments," Army General Nikolai Makarov told the Rossiiskaya Gazeta Nedelya government weekly.
"The only exception is helicopters. They will be domestically made. Everything else is to be made to their standards completely," he said.
But the French Defense Ministry on Thursday reiterated that if the deal is struck, Mistral-class vessels would be delivered without armaments.
"The president said publicly in front of his Russian counterpart what the scope for negotiations was," spokesman Laurent Teisseire was quoted by AFP as saying.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said March 1 at a joint press conference with his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev that Mistral is "a helicopter carrier we will create for Russia without military equipment."
A Mistral-class ship is capable of transporting and deploying 16 helicopters, four landing barges, up to 70 armored vehicles including 13 battle tanks, and 450 personnel.
Many Russian military and industry experts have questioned the financial and military sense of the purchase, and some believe that Russia simply wants to gain access to advanced naval technology that could be used in the future in potential conflicts with NATO and its allies.
MOSCOW, March 25 (RIA Novosti)
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