France defends talks on sale of warships to Russia

The scene is set for conflict between France and its Nato allies when President Medvedev of Russia arrives in Paris today intent on ordering up to four powerful warships from French shipbuilders.

Washington and the former Soviet bloc members of Nato are alarmed by President Sarkozy’s willingness to sell a 600ft Mistral Class amphibious assault ship, and possibly three more, to the Russian Navy.

Georgia, which was subjected to a Russian invasion in 2008, is leading the charge to stop Moscow acquiring Mistrals, which sell for about £400 million each.

Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky, the chief of the Russian Navy, has described the helicopter and troop-carrying vessel as an ideal asset for Black Sea operations in the Caucasus.

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