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Europe

France and Russia sign warship deal

media A Mistral warship in the Neva river on a visit to Saint Petersburg in November … AFP/Kirill Kudryavtsev

France signed a deal Tuesday to sell four Mistral warships to Russia. Baltic states have expressed concern about Russia having such technology, and leaked US diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks revealed that the US had concerns as well.

"The governments of the two countries agree to give their full support to the construction of two [warships] in France and two in Russia," said a joint French-Russian statement released by the French presidency.

In France, the ships will be built at the STX naval shipyards in the western port of Saint-Nazaire.

No details are available about how much technology France would transfer to Russia to enable the building of ships there, nor did it mention how much the cost of the deal, though Mistral ships usually cost around 500 million euros.

Ex-soviet states Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, France's Nato allies, have criticised the plans for the sale since negotiations started.

The three still have rocky relations with Russia, especially since they joined Nato and the EU in 2004.

And leaked diplomatic cables showed that US Defence Secretary Robert Gates also raised concerns while on a visit to Paris last year.

Mistral-class ships can carry up to 16 helicopters, four landing craft, 13 battle tanks and about 100 other vehicles, along with 450 people. They have facilities for a full command staff and are equipped with a 69-bed hospital.

The Russian army has said such a ship would have helped it win the 2008 war with Georgia within hours rather than days.

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