As BarentsObserver recently reported, the Russian Navy is negotiating about the acquisition of the vessel, a helicopter carrier currently used by the French Navy. Now, Head of the Russian General Staff, Nikolai Makarov confirms that a deal on the vessels might be signed by the end of the year, newspaper Vedomosti reports with reference to Itar-Tass.
According to Vedomosti, it is the yard Severnaya Verf in Sankt Petersburg, which is likely to engage in the construction of the French-designed vessels. The yard is owned by senator and businessman Sergei Pugachev, a long-time close associate of the Kremlin.
If the Severnaya Verf is to construct the vessels, major upgrades of the year will have to be done, experts say. Russia, which is likely to base the vessel in the Northern Fleet, will also have to make the ship adjusted to sailing in Arctic waters.
Skeptics doubt however that Russia will sign any deal on the Mistral vessels. That would be too expensive, and leave the Navy with little money for other ship construction, defence analyst Konstantin Makienko says to Vedomosti. It is also a question whether Russia really needs this kind of vessels.
A Russian-French deal on the Mistral vessels would be unprecedented. The Russian Navy of today has never bought any vessels from abroad.