News / Europe

France Defies Allies, Confirms Warship for Russia

Russian sailors training on Mistral-class amphibious assault ships walk near the Russian navy frigate Smolny at Saint-Nazaire shipyard in western France June 30, 2014.
Russian sailors training on Mistral-class amphibious assault ships walk near the Russian navy frigate Smolny at Saint-Nazaire shipyard in western France June 30, 2014.
Reuters

President Francois Hollande won broad domestic applause on Tuesday for defying allies Britain and the United States by confirming plans to deliver a helicopter carrier to Russia. One backer dismissed their objections as hypocritical.

Speaking on the eve of a European Union meeting to discuss sanctions on Moscow over Thursday’s downing of a Malaysian passenger airliner over eastern Ukraine, Hollande said late Monday that a first Mistral warship would be handed over on schedule in October. A decision on a second would depend on Russia's attitude.

It was the clearest signal yet that Paris will go through with the controversial deal despite the Ukraine crisis. It came only hours after British Prime Minister David Cameron said it would be “unthinkable” for his country to fulfill such an order.

“Hollande is not backing down. He is delivering the first [ship] despite the fact he is being asked not to,'' Jean-Christophe Cambadelis, head of Hollande's ruling Socialist Party, told i-Tele television on Tuesday.

“This is a false debate led by hypocrites. ... When you see how many [Russian] oligarchs have sought refuge in London, David Cameron should start by cleaning up his own backyard.''

A first for France

The 1.2-billion-euro ($1.62 billion) contract for the two warships, signed by ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy's conservative government in 2011, was the first by a NATO member country to supply Russia with military equipment.

Some 400 Russian sailors arrived in France on June 30 to begin training on the first Mistral, named Vladivostok. They are being housed aboard a Russian ship docked in the western port of Saint Nazaire and have kept a low profile. They are due to stay until late September.

U.S. President Barack Obama expressed concerns about the Mistral contract in  June because of Russia's annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in eastern Ukraine. A senior U.S. administration official on Monday said Washington continued to oppose the deliveries.

“Just because the Americans say 'jump,' we shouldn't jump,'' Xavier Bertrand, a former minister under Sarkozy and senior member of his conservative opposition UMP party, told France Inter radio. “France's word, its signature, must be respected.''

Consensus a challenge

The wrangling over the warships highlights the difficulties the 28-member European Union has had in agreeing a joint line on dealing with Russia, a major gas supplier to countries such as Germany and Italy, as well as to central Europe.

While pressure for tougher action has mounted following the downing of the Malaysian Airlines airliner, EU foreign ministers were not expected to deepen sanctions significantly on Tuesday.

Diplomats said it was more likely they would agree to hasten implementation of measures already agreed against Russian individuals at their meeting in Brussels.

With the French economy stagnant, unemployment stuck above 10 percent and Hollande's poll ratings at record lows, cancelling the Russian order would have dented the popularity of his Socialists around the town of Saint-Nazaire, where the shipyards have long been a major employer.

France faces financial penalties if it doesn’t deliver the ships on time.

“If these ships hadn't come along three years ago, we don't know if the company would be around today,'' Johan Jardin, a delegate for the CFDT trade union at the STX shipbuilding firm told Reuters.

You May Like

Photogallery US Nurse ‘Cured of Ebola,’ NIH Says

Nina Pham, Texas nurse who treated first Ebola patient in US, received no experimental drugs; WHO expects vaccine surge in 2015 More

Video Islamic State Militants Encroach on Baghdad

Iraqi capital not under ‘imminent threat,’ US military says, amid worries about foothold More

Video Hong Kong Protesters Focus on Holding Volatile Mong Kok

Activists say holding Mong Kok is key to their movement's success, despite confrontations with angry residents and police More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid