Russia to France: We'll take cash instead of warships

French Mistral Carrier For RussiaStephan Mahe/ReutersThe Mistral-class helicopter carrier Vladivostok is seen at the STX Les Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard site in Saint-Nazaire, September 4, 2014.

Russia is willing to accept financial compensation if France does not fulfil a contract to deliver two Mistral helicopter carriers, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman said on Friday.

French President Francois Holland has come under pressure form his Western allies not to deliver the Mistrals because of Russia’s role in the Ukraine crisis. He discussed the contract with Putin when they met in Armenia last month.

Responding to a newspaper report that France had made a formal proposal to scrap the contract, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the issue was not a major headache in relations between the two countries.

“The principle is the following – either the goods or the money,” Peskov told reporters, adding that the two leaders had agreed to this basic approach.

Russian business daily Kommersant reported on Friday that Moscow had put its spending and losses over the contract at 1.16 billion euros but that Paris was offering to pay 785 million euros.

Peskov did not comment on the details of the report, which also said France wanted to resell the two helicopter carriers before compensating Russia while Moscow wanted to see the money before a third country gets the vessels.

“Both Mistral helicopter carriers were built for the Russian navy, for our helicopters, our control systems, our infrastructure. These vessels cannot be given away to some third country now under any circumstances, this is a matter of state security,” Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted senior defence ministry official Yury Yakubov as saying.

Yakubov also said France should compensate Russia in full.

Speaking separately in Belgrade on Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia and France had agreed a basis for settling the dispute and that it was now being dealt with on a “legal and commercial” level.

Rosoboronexport, Russia’s state-owned arms exporting firm, which signed the 1.2-billion-euro contract for the two Mistrals in 2011, declined comment on the Kommersant report.

(Reporting by Darya Korsunskaya, Gabriela Baczynska, Alexandar Vasovic, Gleb Stolyarov; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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This article originally appeared at Reuters. Copyright 2015. Follow Reuters on Twitter.

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