|Political cartoon showing the U.S. attempting to sink the Mistral deal between France and Russia|
(Image courtesy of RIA Novosti/Vitaliy Podvitskiy)
"Vladivostok", Russia's first Mistral-class amphibious landing ship built by France, has conducted two rounds of underway training periods for Russian Navy crews over the past three weeks. The first nine-day period took place on September 13-21, while the second nine-day period took place on September 24-October 2. The landing ship twice reached a top speed of 18.3 knots -- on Day 6 (September 19) and Day 7 (September 29) of the respective underway periods. You can watch a replay of both underway training periods here and here.
The 2011 Mistral contract called for delivery of the first ship to Russia in October 2014. Following Russia's annexation of the Crimea and further military actions in eastern Ukraine, French president Francois Hollande stated in July that while the delivery of the first ship would probably occur, a decision to deliver the second Mistral unit - "Sevastopol" - would be reviewed. In an interview with Le Monde in August, the French president said that European sanctions enacted at that point did not prevent France from delivering the ship to Russia. In early September, however, Hollande backtracked slightly when he said that he would decide in late October whether proper conditions exist to authorize delivery of "Vladivostok" to Russia -- an effective cease-fire and a clear path to a political settlement of the crisis in eastern Ukraine.
This week, RosOboroneksport deputy general director Igor Sevastyanov told reporters that Russia plans to sign documents for delivery of "Vladivostok" in late October-early November. Also this week, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Aleksey Meshkov and Speaker of the State Duma Sergey Naryshkin both stated that France, so far, was fulfilling its contract obligations on schedule.