Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will visit France on November 26-27, when a decision could finally be made on the purchase of a French Mistral-class helicopter carrier, a government spokesman said on Friday.
The Russian business daily Vedomosti said earlier this month Russia and France could finally settle on the deal during Putin's visit.
If the deal is signed, the Mistral will be the largest vessel Russia has ever bought, according to experts. The Mistral, worth 400-500 million euros (around $600-$750 mln), is inferior in size only to Russia's sole aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov.
A Mistral-class ship is capable of transporting and deploying 16 helicopters, four landing barges, up to 70 vehicles, including 13 battle tanks, as well as 450 military personnel. The vessel is equipped with a 69-bed hospital and can be used as an amphibious command ship.
France's Mistral amphibious assault ship is expected to arrive on an official visit to St. Petersburg on November 23.
Putin will also attend the 14th meeting of a bilateral cooperation commission and is also expected to meet with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
France is one of major foreign investors in Russia, with French investment reaching $8.6 billion as of late March 2009.
Bilateral trade grew 35.3% to $22.2 billion in 2008, with Russian exports going up 40.4% to $12.2 billion, and French imports rising 29.6% to $10 billion.
However, trade between the two countries decreased by 28.5% year-on-year to $3.3 billion in the first quarter of 2009 amid the global credit crunch.
MOSCOW, November 20 (RIA Novosti)