France defends sale of Mistral assault ships to Russia

Pro-Ukrainian protesters near the French-built Vladivostok warship to be sold to Russia in Saint-Nazaire, western France, 1 France Image copyright AFP
Image caption Pro-Ukrainian protesters near the French-built Vladivostok warship in Saint-Nazaire

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has confirmed the controversial sale of two warships to Russia will go ahead, saying many jobs are at stake.

"The contracts were agreed in 2011, they represent many jobs and they will be carried out," he said in a tweet.

US President Barack Obama has said he is concerned about the sale, in light of the crisis in Ukraine.

Both he and Russian President Vladimir Putin are due to attend D-Day events in France later on Friday.

French President Francois Hollande has come under sustained pressure from European allies over the Mistral-class helicopter carriers, which are set to be delivered to the Black Sea ports in Crimea, annexed by Russia in March.

The first carrier in the 1.2bn euro (£1bn; $1.6bn) deal is due for delivery this year.

Mr Obama said while he recognised it was a big deal and important for French jobs, "I think it would have been preferable to press the pause button".

Pro-Ukrainian bloggers reacted with anger to the tweet by Mr Fabius.

"Life/blood of non-compatriots are cheap," wrote one on Twitter, while another remarked "so French jobs more important than Ukrainian lives".

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