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Russia drops plans to build two assault ships

By IANS/RIA Novosti,

Moscow : The Russian defence ministry has decided to abandon plans for construction of two Mistral class amphibious assault ships under the French license in Russia, business daily Vedomosti said Friday citing a government source.

Russia and France signed a $1.2-billion contract for two French-built Mistral class ships, including the transfer of sensitive technology, in June 2011.

The first ship, the Vladivostok, is being built at a DCNS shipyard in Saint-Nazaire and should be delivered in 2014, while the second, the Sevastopol, is scheduled for delivery in 2015.

Two more ships were expected to be 80 percent built in Russia, 20 percent in France.

However, Russian shipbuilders and many navy experts have always been skeptical about the military necessity to deploy four ships of this class with the Russian Navy, the paper said.

In addition, the domestic construction of the two ships would cost Russia approximately the same amount of money as the French contract, while their future upkeep would lay a heavy burden on the defence budget, according to defence industry sources.

The decision has been made following the recent reshuffle in the Russian top military brass which saw the dismissal of Anatoly Serdyukov from the post of defence minister and his replacement by former emergencies minister Sergei Shoigu, who immediately took the course on streamlining defence expenditures.

A Mistral-class ship is capable of carrying 16 helicopters, four landing vessels, 70 armoured vehicles, and 450 personnel.

The French-built ships are expected to be assigned to Russia’s Pacific Fleet.

The Russian defence ministry has not yet commented on the Vedomosti report.