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Hollande ‘won’t be pressured’ over warship delivery to Russia

Russia's President Vladimir Putin during his bilateral meeting with France's President François Hollande Reuters/Alain Jocard/Pool

French President François Hollande will not be pressured into delivering two Mistral warships being built in France for Russia, he said after the G20 summit in Australia on Sunday. The handover has been delayed due to the Ukraine crisis.

"I will take my decision without any pressure, wherever it may come from, and based on two criteria - the interests of France and the appreciation I have of the situation," Hollande told a press conference in Brisbane.

The first of the Mistrals, Vladivostok, was originally supposed to be delivered in October and Russian officials have warned of “serious” consequences if it does not arrive in November.

In Brisbane, Hollande insisted that there was no deadline pressure and that France has not as yet broken its contractual obligations so it does not owe Russia any compensation.

The question had not been raised in his meeting Saturday with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, he said, although Putin did publicly call on him to “minimise the risks” to bilateral relations.

France sold the Mistrals to Russia for 1.2 billion euros in 2011 when Nicolas Sarkozy was president.

Sarkozy, currently campaigning to become leader of the mainstream right opposition party, the UMP, ahead of a probable presidential bid in 2017, on Saturday declared that France should “keep its word” and deliver the warships, describing the Hollande government’s attitude as “pitiful”.

“I’m not going to arguer with a candidate in partisan elections who allows himself to make facile remarks that have no place here,” was Hollande’s response on Sunday.