MOSCOW, November 5 (RIA Novosti) - France's Mistral amphibious assault ship will arrive on an official visit to St. Petersburg on November 23, a senior Russian Navy official said on Thursday.
Russia is seeking to buy a Mistral-class helicopter carrier worth 400-500 million euros (around $600-$750 mln). The Russian Navy and defense industry experts will be able to inspect the ship during the visit.
"The visit was originally scheduled for November 14, but it was later postponed until November 23," a source in Russia's Baltic Fleet said.
France said in mid-October it had decided to start official negotiations on the sale of a warship to Russia. Paris indicated it would formulate its terms and the further course of negotiations would depend on Moscow's response. A final decision is expected in mid-November at the latest.
Oleg Burtsev, first deputy chief of the Navy Main Staff confirmed Moscow's plans last Saturday to buy one Mistral-class warship and build another four in Russia under French licensing.
The first warship will be built at the STX shipyard in France in partnership with the French shipbuilder DCNS.
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.
The Russian Navy is planning to deploy the Mistral-class warships in the Northern and Pacific fleets to conduct troop transport, peacekeeping and rescue missions. In addition, the helicopter carriers could be used effectively in anti-piracy operations, including off the Somali coast.
Russian shipbuilders strongly oppose the deal and the government has yet to make a decision on whether Russia needs to build costly amphibious assault ships.