The apparent success in negotiations over a ceasefire agreement for Ukraine could lead France to grant permission for the delivery of Mistral-class warships to Russia “as early as next week”, according to Russian media.
Independent newswire Interfax quotes a military-diplomatic source as saying that the agreement of the ceasefire deal mean that the Elysee Palace can now grant permission for the transfer of the Mistral-class helicopter carriers. This could mean that the ships are delivered in the first half of March.
Of course, this is not the first time that the people on the Russian side of the deal have expressed hope that a conclusion to the stand-off was imminent. Back in November the Russia side reportedly set a firm deadline for the end of the month for the ships to be delivered, threatening legal action to recovery their investment if the French side reneged on the deal.
However, on November 25 the French government announced that it was postponing the sale of the Mistrals to Moscow “until further notice” and the Russians backed away from their threat to take DCNS, the French company responsible for delivering the ship, to court.
A statement from the official Twitter account of French President François Hollande, the government said that the situation in Ukraine does not meet the conditions necessary for the sale of the first Mistral ship, the Vladivostok.
Problems with the €1.2 billion deal emerged in September last year as, with the original deadline for the handover of the first ship Vladivostok fast approaching, Hollande imposed two conditions necessary for the sale. These were a cease-fire that was being observed by all sides and tangible evidence of progress toward a political settlement over Ukraine’s future.
Providing the ceasefire holds this time (and that is a huge caveat), those conditions might well be claimed to have been met. It is due to come into effect on Sunday, after which time both the Ukrainian government and pro-Moscow rebels will be required to withdraw heavy artillery.
However, even as the deal was being announced the government in Kiev announced that tanks had been spotted crossing the border into the country from Russia. The reports have added to fears that the next few days will allow the rebels to make a big push to capture further territory with fighting intensifying around the railway town of Debaltseve.
As journalist Max Seddon reported:
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