MOSCOW, September 22 (RIA Novosti) - The Mistral-class helicopter carrier Vladivostok, carrying the first crew of some 200 Russian sailors, has finished a series of tests early Monday morning.
The Vladivistok set off from the French port of Saint-Nazaire for sea trials on September 13, and is scheduled to go to sea again on Tuesday with its second crew on board, according to a RIA Novosti source.
The $1.2 billion contract for the manufacture of the Mistral-class ships between French ship builder DCNS and Russia's state-run arms trade intermediary Rosoboronexport was signed in June 2011. The first carrier, the Vladivostok is to be deployed by the Russian Navy in 2014, while the second ship, the Sevastopol, will arrive in 2015. While the United States was against the deal, DCNS insisted that Western sanctions imposed against Russia could not prohibit the construction and transfer of Mistral ships to the country.
Earlier in September, France threatened to suspend the supply of the helicopter carriers again, linking its decision to the crisis in Ukraine, claiming Moscow's direct involvement. Later, a French government spokesman told RIA Novosti that the delivery of the ship is not officially suspended and that French President Francois Hollande was simply outlining his political stance.
Hollande stated he would not approve of the transfer of the vessel in November unless the situation in Ukraine improved. Hollande later stated he would make the decision in late October. The president added that the two conditions for the delivery of the ship are an observed ceasefire in Ukraine and a political settlement to the conflict.