PARIS, December 18 (Sputnik) – A Russian training ship, the Smolny, has weighed anchor and is departing the port of Saint-Nazaire, France, with Russian sailors trained to operate the Mistral helicopter carrier, a municipal council member said on his Facebook page Thursday.
"The Smolny has begun her departure [from the port of Saint-Nazaire] and is receiving a salute from other ships," Jean-Claude Blanchard said.
On Wednesday, the DCNS shipbuilding company confirmed reports that 400 Russian sailors would leave the port of Saint-Nazaire before the end of 2014.
The Russian sailors have been undergoing training since June on the Vladivostok, the first of the two Mistral-class ships, which France has to deliver to Russia under a $1.6 billion deal signed in 2011.
On December 3, a high-ranking source in the Russian arms exporter Rosoboronexport told RIA Novosti that the sailors would remain in Saint-Nazaire until the vessel was handed over to the Russian Navy.
The handover of the first carrier, the Vladivostok, was originally scheduled for November 14, 2014 but France overran the deadline, with French President Francois Hollande citing the ongoing crisis in eastern Ukraine as a reason for the breakdown in the deal.
Russia condemned France's failure to deliver on its contractual obligations, saying Paris would have to pay a large penalty if the deal was canceled.
On December 6, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Moscow expected the Mistral contract to be implemented.
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