Over 400 Russian sailors will soon leave the French port city where they received training on one of two warships that France agreed to sell to Russia, a deal that was delayed when relations between Russia and the West soured over the situation in Ukraine, the contractor building the ships said Wednesday.
Emmanuel Gaudez, a spokesman for the contractor, DCNS, said the sailors had completed their training in Saint-Nazaire on the first ship, the Vladivostok. “They are going to head back to Russia, but not once and for all,” Mr. Gaudez said, adding that the sailors would come back to take command of the ship if the French government decided to deliver it.
France signed a deal worth 1.2 billion euros, or about $1.5 billion, in 2011 to build and sell two Mistral-class warships to Russia and to train Russian sailors to operate them. The sailors arrived in Saint-Nazaire, on the Atlantic coast, in June for a four-month training program.
The Vladivostok was scheduled to be handed over to Russia in October, while the second ship, the Sevastopol, was due for delivery next year. The Mistral-class ships are designed to each carry up to 30 helicopters, 60 armored vehicles, 13 tanks and 700 soldiers.
But the deal grew increasingly controversial, especially in Germany and the United States, as relations with Russia deteriorated following its annexation of the Crimean peninsula and Moscow’s support for a separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine. In September, President François Hollande of France said that conditions for delivery of the ships had not been met, despite talks toward a cease-fire in Ukraine.
This month, the French defense minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, suggested in a television interview that the two warships might never be delivered. “The Russians must realize this situation,” he said.