Tuesday September 21, 2010
Russian warship tender a formality - Interfax
MOSCOW (Reuters) - A navy official said on Tuesday that Russia had all but decided to buy helicopter-carriers from France and that its tender for the warships would be a formality, the Interfax news agency reported.
The report, which cited an unidentified official in the Russian navy's general staff, reinforced indications that Russia plans to buy French-built Mistral helicopter-carriers despite inviting bids from others in an international tender.
The tender expected this month "will in principle be a formality," Interfax cited the official as saying. Its main aim "will not be to determine who will fulfill the contract but to lower the cost of the deal as much as possible."
The Mistral is built by the French naval shipyard DCNS, a quarter owned by defence electronics group Thales.
Russian navy officials declined immediate comment.
Russia is trying to modernise its armed forces, burdened by Soviet-era equipment that military leaders said was exposed as outdated in Moscow's brief 2008 war with Georgia.
Russia has been negotiating with France on the purchase of the Mistral since last year, but talks have been complicated by Moscow's desire to acquire technology along with the ships and by the question of where they would be built.
Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said earlier this year that the military was also in discussions with Spain and the Netherlands, and in August he announced plans to invite bids from foreign and Russian shipbuilders in a tender.
But Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Paris this month that Russia remained in exclusive negotiations with France on the Mistral and that Russia's legal requirements meant that any mass purchase by the government must be put out to tender.
Moscow's potential purchase of one or more of the 400-500 million euro ($480-600 million) carriers has alarmed Georgia, Russia's Black Sea neighbour, and Baltic Sea nations in NATO.
(Writing by Steve Gutterman, editing by Tim Pearce)
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