PARIS (AP) – France suspended the delivery of a warship to Russia on Tuesday, after months of speculation about what would be the biggest arms sale ever by a NATO country to the Kremlin.
French President Francois Hollande’s office announced the suspension “until further notice” after growing pressure from allies due to tensions over Russia’s actions in Ukraine. The decision exposes France to eventual fines for not fulfilling the contract.
The Vladivostok, meant for delivery this month, is docked at the French port city of Saint Nazaire, where about 400 Russian sailors have spent months training aboard the vessel.
A second French-made ship, named the Sevastopol, after a port on the Crimean Peninsula, was slated for delivery next year and recently arrived at the Saint Nazaire docks for finishing touches. Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in March.
Hollande had said in September that conditions weren’t right for a ship delivery given continued violence in Ukraine. Tuesday’s statement stopped short of cancelling the two-ship deal, suggesting the French government is reluctant to give up on a contract worth more than 1 billion euros (US$1.24 billion) and thousands of jobs during an economic slump.