France is backing out of a $1.53 billion deal that would have provided the Russian Navy two amphibious warships in reaction to the increasingly violent situation in Ukraine between Russian-backed separatists and government forces, according to a Wednesday statement from the French government.
“The situation is serious. Russia’s recent actions in the east of Ukraine contravene the fundamental principles of European security,” read the statement from office of President François Hollande.
“The president of the [French] Republic has concluded that despite the prospect of ceasefire, which has yet to be confirmed and put in place, the conditions under which France could authorize the delivery of the first helicopter carrier are not in place.”
The statement did not indicate if the deal for the two ships — Vladivostok and Sevastopol — could of forward in the future.
Russian defense officials issued a statement following the French statement.
“This is not a tragedy, though of course the news is unpleasant. It will not affect our armament plans. We will act in accordance with international laws and the statutes of the contract,” said Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov in a Wednesday statement to state-controlled news outlet, Russia Today.
Russia has previously announced plans to extensively expand and modernize its navy.
According to press reports, the move by France is not part of the extensive U.S. and European Union sanctions that have gone into place since the March seizure of Crimea region of Ukraine by Russia.
The suspension of delivering the two ships to Russia follows months of criticism from the U.S. and the Ukraine toward the French government over the deal.
Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko told European parliamentarians in July he was “very disappointed” the deal was moving ahead following the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 over Eastern Ukraine.
The U.S. also repeatedly spoke out against the sale of the warships.
“We don’t think anyone should be providing arms to Russia,” deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in July news conference.
“We obviously don’t think the Mistral should go ahead.”
Next steps are unclear. In June, 400 Russian sailors arrived at the port Saint-Nazaire to train to operate Vladivostok. The ship was planned to deliver later this year and its unclear where the sailors will go or if their training will be suspended.
The 21,000-ton ships can field 20 helicopters and has a well deck to deploy landing craft. The ship can carry up to 450 troops for extended journeys and 900 for short trips. The Russian versions of the ships were modified to accommodate larger helicopters and to operate in the Arctic.
Russia had planned to homeport both ships at its naval base in Vladivostok.