Ukraine crisis: France caves in and suspends €600m warship deal with Russia

President Hollande's hand forced by ongoing Russian intervention in eastern Ukraine

Paris

In a significant escalation of European sanctions on Moscow, France has announced that it will be suspending the controversial delivery of a state-of-the-art €600m warship to the Russian navy.

After an emergency meeting of the national defence council, President François Hollande said that “conditions do not today exist” for the delivery of the first of two Mistral helicopter carriers this autumn. He described the latest developments in eastern Ukraine as “grave”.

Russia has paid for the ship and Russian sailors are already training aboard the vessel in St Nazaire on the French Atlantic coast. Until tonight, France had stoutly resisted pressure from the United States and its EU partners to suspend its delivery. Mr Hollande had previously insisted that the handover would go ahead next month, but that the delivery of a second ship next year would depend on Moscow’s behaviour in the Ukraine crisis.

The recent evidence of escalating Russian military intervention in eastern Ukraine has forced Mr Hollande’s hand. In return, France will expect other EU countries, including Britain, to drop their objection to sanctions on Russia which might hurt their own domestic economies.

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