French protesters unite against govt's suspension of Mistral delivery to Russia (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

French protesters unite against govt's suspension of Mistral delivery to Russia (PHOTOS, VIDEO)
Dozens of people gathered in the harbor of Saint-Nazaire in western France on Sunday to protest against the French government's decision to suspend the delivery of a Mistral warship to Russia.

Some two hundred protesters gathered by the docked Vladivostok – the first of two Mistral-class helicopter carrier ships – holding banners that read, "Hollande wants to kill Saint-Nazaire. We say no,” as well as “Let's deliver Mistral and provide our citizens with job" and "For the victory of Mistral, for our independence."

Organized by Mistral Gagnons (“Mistral Wins”), protesters included Saint-Nazaire city councilors, pro-Russian supporters, and members of several trade unions involved in the shipbuilding industry.

France recently suspended the delivery of the first of two Mistral helicopter carrier ships to Russia due to the events in eastern Ukraine. President Francois Hollande later said the contract had not been canceled and a decision would be made by late October.

Demonstrators said if France failed to sell the warships, it would harm not only its image, but its economy as well. They also stated that Russia should not be perceived as an enemy.

People hold Russian flags, French flags and placards during a demonstration supporting a contract to deliver the Mistral-class helicopter carrier Vladivostok warship to Russia, at the STX Les Chantiers de l'Atlantique shipyard site in Saint-Nazaire, September 7, 2014. (Reuters / Stephane Mahe)

"The president and his government are subordinated to the diktats of Washington and of NATO. This president has become the dog of Obama, Cameron, and Merkel. France is a big country – proud and independent – who must decide on its destiny on its own," Saint-Nazaire city council member Jean-Claude Blanchard told Ruptly news agency.

The two ships were commissioned by Russia in 2011 at a cost of US$1.6 billion. The first of these, the Vladivostok, was due to come into service at the end of this year. The second, the Sevastopol, is due to be completed in 2015.

"If we fail to deliver the ship on time, or not deliver it at all, our penalty for not adhering to the contract might exceed 10 billion euros ($13 billion). That will be a disaster – both to the economy and the reputation. The contract is important for France, and for Saint-Nazaire in particular," Blanchard said.

He added that if the contract is canceled, it would drastically affect the 600 people currently working on the ship – and other protesters agreed.

"We’ve got no reason to not deliver these vessels, especially since there are economic factors, there are jobs which are at stake," demonstrators told Ruptly.

Another protest took place at the same time, several hundred meters from the pro-Russian rally. Around 20 people attended, supporting the government's decision not to deliver the Mistral warship to Russia.

People hold up models of the Mistral-class helicopter carrier warship during a demonstration against a contract to deliver the warship to Russia, at the STX Les Chantiers de l'Atlantique shipyard site in Saint-Nazaire, September 7, 2014. (Reuters / Stephane Mahe)