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PARIS — The French procurement office Tuesday declined to comment on a report Russia has asked for a written statement on whether the Mistral class helicopter carrier will be delivered to Moscow.

Russia officially sent a written request to France for an explanation of the refusal to deliver the Mistral warship, Russian news agency Ria-Novosti reported, according to Agence France-Presse.

A Russian official in the military and technical cooperation service sent the letter to the Direction Générale de l'Armement (DGA) procurement office, "with the aim of receiving an official reply," the report said.

A DGA spokesman declined to comment.

Russia has called on France to either deliver the Mistral or hand back the payment.

DCNS, prime contractor for the Mistral, organized an official handover of the Vladivostok on Nov. 14, the first of the two helicopter carriers bought by Russia.

France on Nov. 25 suspended the delivery and said the warship would only be released if a real cease-fire was observed in Ukraine and if Moscow and Kiev reached a political settlement over the deadly dispute in eastern Ukraine.

The Mistral contract is understood to have been written under Swiss law. Under the force majeure clause in a sales contract, there is generally a 180-day suspension until a decision to cancel is required.

The then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy insisted on going ahead in 2011 with the €1.2 billion (US $1.4 billion) sale of the two warships, Vladivostok and Sevastopol, much to the concern of allies in Central European and the Baltics.

Email: ptran@defensenews.com.

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