Impasse: Russian sailors leave France without Mistral warship

Impasse: Russian sailors leave France without Mistral warship

Hundreds of Russian sailors pulled out of a French port Thursday, bearing perfumes for their loved ones but lacking the controversial bounty they came for: a 1-billion-euro, French-built warship that has become a hostage to the biggest East-West conflict since the Cold War. …

After months training on the ship, the Russian sailors left the port town of Saint-Nazaire empty-handed. The ship, painted with Cyrillic letters reading “VLADIVOSTOK,” floats in a dock, unused. A second ship meant to be part of the deal is there, too, an expensive diplomatic embarrassment.

A top French official involved in negotiating the sale in 2009, former Defense Minister Herve Morin, is now opposed to it. His change of heart reflects Europe’s evolving relationship with Russia, a powerful neighbor, trading partner and energy supplier. …

Russia agreed to wait until February for a final decision, while France risks having to pay over 1 billion euros for not fulfilling the contract, according to a top French official and a Russian diplomat. The French official said Russia has already paid a substantial part of the 1.2 billion euros ($1.48 billion) deal.

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