February 26 (RIA Novosti) - Moscow and Paris have yet to clinch a deal on the purchase of a French warship and it will not be signed during the Russian president's visit to France on March 1-3, a source in the Russian Defense Ministry said Friday.
The official said Russia would like to buy one Mistral-class ship and that "subsequently, we would like to use their know-how, jointly with France, to build another three."
"We would like to buy such a helicopter carrier and continue cooperation... and continue building [such ships] here [in Russia]," he said.
The Russian military earlier announced that it was considering buying one of the Mistral-class amphibious assault ships, worth 400-500 million euros (around $540-$675 million), and potentially building three or four vessels of the same class in partnership with the French naval shipbuilder DCNS. The French government has approved the sale but Russia has not yet made a final decision.
The Defense Ministry source said earlier in the day that if Moscow buys a Mistral-class carrier from France, it will be used principally as an amphibious command ship. He said the Mistral was basically a "force projection" command ship for various task groups or combined-arms forces operating at sea.
He stressed that from the Russian Navy's perspective, the ship's capability for amphibious assault operations is an important but not the principal function.
There are concerns that Russia could use the warship for amphibious assault operations against Georgia, and the Russian military has said such a vessel would have allowed the Russian Navy to conduct a more efficient operation in the Black Sea during the August 2008 Russia-Georgia war
Speaking in London on February 18, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili criticized the French authorities for approving the possible sale to Russia.
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.