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    Russia plans to send first Mistral ships to protect Kurils

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    The two Mistral class amphibious assault ships built in France for the Russian Navy will be put in service with the Pacific Fleet, a Russian Defense Ministry source said Wednesday.

    The two Mistral class amphibious assault ships built in France for the Russian Navy will be put in service with the Pacific Fleet, a Russian Defense Ministry source said Wednesday.

    "After the [first two] Mistral ships are built and enter service, they are expected to join the Pacific Fleet," the source said.

    Russian President Dmitry Medvedev earlier on Wednesday ordered naval and ground-based units deployed on the disputed South Kuril Islands, located in the Pacific, to be equipped with advanced weaponry.

    Moscow and Paris signed an intergovernmental agreement to jointly build four Mistral class ships on January 25.

    Under the Russian-French agreement the first Mistral-class ship, with a price tag of 720 million euros, is expected to be built in late 2013-early 2014 and the second in late 2014-early 2015.

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

    Russia will also invest heavily in the modernization of the defense infrastructure on the four Kuril Islands and in the upgrade of weaponry used by units deployed on these islands.

    The South Kuril Islands were seized from Japan by Soviet troops at the end of World War Two and remain a source of tension between Moscow and Tokyo. Russia claims that the islands are "unalienable Russian territory."

    MOSCOW, February 9 (RIA Novosti)

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