PARIS, September 12 (RIA Novosti) - Russian sailors, who are currently training to crew Mistral-class helicopter carriers, built in France for the Russian Navy, will go to sea Saturday morning to take part in sea trials of the first ship ordered by Moscow, the Vladivostok, a source familiar with the situation told RIA Novosti.
"Yes, Vladivostok will indeed sail Saturday morning for tests. As far as I know, about 200 Russian sailors and the same number of French personnel will be on board," the source said.
This is the first time the ship goes to the sea since the two crews of Russian sailors, a total of 400 people, arrived in the French town of Saint-Nazaire in June.
Russia’s state-run arms exporter Rosoboronexport and the French DCNS ship-building company signed a $1.6 billion deal for two Mistral-class ships in June 2011. The first carrier, the Vladivostok, was expected to be delivered to Russia by the end of 2014. The second ship, the Sevastopol, was supposed to arrive in 2015.
The completion of the deal has been at risk since Western countries imposed sanctions against Russia over its alleged role in the escalation of the Ukrainian crisis. However, DCNS insisted that the US sanctions could not prevent the construction and transfer of Mistral ships.
Last week, French President Francois Hollande threatened to suspend the delivery of the helicopter carriers, linking his decision to the crisis in Ukraine and claiming that Moscow was directly involved in it. Later, a French government spokesman told RIA Novosti that the delivery of the ship was not officially suspended. According to the statement, Hollande had simply outlined his political stance, meaning he would not approve the transfer of the vessel in November, if the situation in Ukraine did not improve.