Russia to buy two French Mistral-class warships

Image caption,
The Mistral-class warship can carry helicopters and landing craft

Russia has confirmed that it will buy at least two Mistral-class warships from a French-led consortium.

Correspondents say the sale will be the first to Russia by a Nato country of such sophisticated naval equipment.

The prospect of a deal has raised concerns among France's Nato allies.

The deal was originally agreed in July but stalled a month later over how much technology France was prepared to share, and the order was put out to international tender.

The Russian and French authorities said Moscow had chosen the consortium of France's DCNS and STX and Russian naval yard OSK, although shipbuilders in Spain and the Netherlands had also been looked at.

"Their offer initially covers the joint construction of two of this kind of vessel, which should be extended by the construction of two more," French President Nicolas Sarkozy's office said in a statement.

Mistral-class amphibious assault ships can carry up to 16 helicopters, four landing craft and a 750-strong landing force, and is equipped with a 69-bed hospital.

The deal has caused unease in other Nato countries, especially the United States, as well as some of Russia's immediate neighbours and the Baltic states.

In February a US official told reporters the US "had questions" for France about the order.

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