Russian defense minister says open tender for helicopter carrier to be held next month

By Vladimir Isachenkov, AP
Friday, August 20, 2010

Russia to hold open tender for helicopter carrier

MOSCOW — Russia will hold an open tender for two warships of the class it had planned to buy from France without inviting other bidders, the Russian defense minister said Friday.

Anatoly Serdyukov said the French shipbuilders would be welcome to take part in the bidding next month along with other foreign participants. He was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying on a trip to Armenia that the results would be announced later this year.

Russia earlier had said it planned to buy a Mistral-class assault ship from France without opening a bidding process. Russia wants to build more such ships at its own shipyards under license.

In Paris, an official at the presidential palace said Friday that France sees no reason to worry about the Russian decision and that negotiations were continuing. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to publicly speak on the issue.

Russian officials have said they were also looking at similar ships built by Spain and Netherlands.

On Thursday, Russia’s state-controlled United Shipbuilding Corporation said it also had received an invitation from the government to take part in the bidding.

Its spokesman Igor Ryabov said that his company would hold meetings with Mistral builders in late August to offer setting up a joint venture. The Russian corporation could invite the French to help build the ship at one of the two shipyards in northwestern Russia, he said.

The Mistral, which could carry up to 16 helicopters and dozens of armored vehicles, would allow Russia to land hundreds of troops quickly on foreign soil.

The possible deal has alarmed Georgia, which fought a brief war against Russia in 2008, as well as the ex-Soviet Baltic nations in NATO.

Russian news reports said a key issue of contention in the talks with France on selling the ship had been Russia’s demand that it be fitted with the proprietary state-of-the art command and control system more advanced than the technology the Russian navy has.


Associated Press writer Sylvie Corbet in Paris contributed to this report.

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