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France Suspends Delivery of Warship to Russia

French-built warship BPC Vladivostock, designed to strengthen Russia's ability to deploy troops, tanks and helicopter gunships, leaves the Saint Nazaire's harbor, for its test run on the open sea off coast of France. (AP Photo/David Vincent, File)

PARIS — France suspended the delivery of a warship to Russia on Tuesday, after months of speculation about what would be the biggest arms sale ever by a NATO country to the Kremlin.

The French president's office announced the suspension "until further notice" after growing pressure from allies due to tensions over Russia's actions in Ukraine. The first of the two ships, the Vladivostok, is docked at the French port city of Saint Nazaire, where about 400 Russian sailors have spent months training aboard the vessel.

A second French-made ship, named the Sevastopol, after a port on the Crimean Peninsula, was slated for delivery next year and recently arrived at the Saint Nazaire docks for finishing touches. Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in March.

Tuesday's statement stopped short of cancelling the two-ship deal, suggesting the French government is reluctant give up on a contract worth more than $1.24 billion and thousands of jobs during an economic slump.

The Vladivostok can carry 700 troops, 16 helicopter gunships and up to 50 armored vehicles.

Analysts say the two warships would give Russia an enhanced ability to move large numbers of troops and equipment but were not game-changers for Moscow's military.

Russia's deputy defense minister told RIA Novosti news agency Tuesday that Moscow did not plan to take any immediate action against France for delaying the deal.

"We are satisfied. It is the French who are not satisfied and we are going to patiently wait," said Yuri Borisov. "Everything is spelled out in the contract and we are going to act in accord with the contract like all civilized people."

Associated Press writer Laura Mills in Moscow contributed to this report.

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