France suspends delivery of its first Mistral warship to Russia "until further notice"

Emma Haslett
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President Hollande said the situation in Ukraine "does not permit" delivery of the ship (Source: Getty)

After much agonising by French president Francois Hollande, the decision's been made. The country has put off delivery of the first of two warships to Russia "until further notice".

It can't have been an easy choice. That contract for the two Mistral helicopter carriers, due to be delivered this month, is worth €1.2bn (£951m) - money the cash-strapped French economy sorely needs. The French president was careful not to make his decision final - but putting it off indefinitely seems like a fairly strong signal.

Hollande has been under heavy pressure from his neighbours to cancel the contract. In July, Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt said that "to delier arms in this situation is somewhat difficult to defend, to put it mildly". Latvian minister Edgars Rinkevics added: "It is very difficult to explain... that [the EU is] selling ships.... [and] also other kinds of military technology, to the country that has been behind... providing anti-aircraft missiles to terrorists." Strong words.

Today. Hollande said the situation in the east of Ukraine "still does not permit the delivery" of the first ship.

[I have] therefore decided that it is appropriate to suspend, until further notice, examination of the request for the necessary authorisation to export the first BPC [the ship] to the Russian Federation.

French foreign minister Laurent Fabius added on France Inter radio that the terms for the ship's handover "have not been met".

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