French shipbuilder DCNS has started work on the second Mistral-class amphibious assault ship built for Russia even as Paris has withheld export clearance for the first of the ships.
The second helicopter carrier, named Sevastopol left its dry dock in the French port city of Saint-Nazaire on Thursday, RIA Novosti correspondent reported. This means that the ship has completed its basic fitment and is being prepared for trials.
Russia and France signed the $1.5 billion deal for two Mistral-class ships in June 2011. The first carrier, the Vladivostok, is expected to join the Russian Navy by the end of this year, while the Sevastopol is due to arrive in Russia in 2015.
But the deal has been in jeopardy after the West slapped Russia with economic sanctions over Ukraine. French President Francois Hollande in October threatened to suspend the deliveries of the ships, citing Russia’s alleged involvement in the Ukrainian conflict — a claim that Moscow has repeatedly denied.
The handover of the first ship, the Vladivostok, was scheduled for November 14, but the ceremony did not take place. 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.