Hundreds of Russian sailors are due to begin training aboard one of two Mistral warships whose 1.2 billion euros sale by France to Russia has stirred controversy in the context of the Ukraine crisis.
Despite calls from NATO to suspend the deal, tug boats escorted the Russian navy frigate Smolny into the Saint-Nazaire STX Les Chantiers de l'Atlantique shipyard in western France early on Monday.
During their training, the 400 sailors will stay onboard the Russian Smolny frigate, docked behind the "Vladivostok" Mistral helicopter carrier.
The contract between France and Russia was signed in 2011 and the first Mistral -Vladivostok - is due for delivery in October and the second - Sébastopol - in 2015.
The Mistral is the second largest ship in the French navy, it's a high-sea military base which can carry 16 helicopters, four landing craft, 60 armed vehicles and 700 troops.