"For France the Mistral contract is significant for both diplomatic and financial reasons. French authorities do not want to be perceived as swindlers unable to fulfil their obligations," the newspaper quoted a member of the French government familiar with the situation as saying.
According to the source, France is ready to repay Moscow $875 million, as well as cover the expanses of sending Russian seamen to Saint-Nazaire, where the Mistrals were built. France is also allegedly willing to pay for the shipment of Russian equipment and platform installation in Russian ports.
The two Mistral ships, known as the Vladivostok and the Sevastopol, could be sold to a third party, the newspaper said, adding that NATO members are among potential buyers.
"However, … measures would be taken so that the helicopter carriers would not be sold to the countries in strained relations with Russia," a source told the newspaper, naming Georgia as one such nation that is unable to buy the Mistrals built for Russia. "Evidently the Kremlin would see this as a provocation," the newspaper said.
Under a $1.3-billion deal Russia and France signed in 2011, Paris was supposed to deliver the Vladivostok in November 2014 and the Sevastopol in early 2015. None of the ships arrived to Russia, since the deliveries were put on hold over Moscow's alleged involvement in the Ukrainian civil war. Kremlin has repeatedly denied these groundless claims and pushed for peace in the war-torn nation.