‘Good jokes are appropriate, but so is honoring contracts’ – Kremlin comments on Mistral prank

Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov (RIA Novosti / Sergey Guneev)
Vladimir Putin’s press secretary has dismissed the news report that Mistral amphibious ships, destined for Russia, will be sold to the EU as an April Fool’s joke, but added that Moscow expected Paris to fulfill its obligations.

Any good jokes are appropriate and equally appropriate is honoring one’s contractual obligations,” Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti. Reporters asked the official if they should expect any April Fool’s jokes from the Kremlin. “Sure thing! Though the Kremlin is more engaged in work than in jokes,” Peskov answered.

On Wednesday, numerous Russian and international mass media reprinted a bogus report by the EU Observer website claiming France had agreed to sell the two Mistral ships commissioned by Russia, to the European Union and that the first ship would be deployed to the Latvian port of Riga as early as May. The EU’s Foreign Policy department duly reported the news was a joke.

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Russia and France signed the €1.12 billion contract to build two Mistral class amphibious ships in 2011. The first ship – the Vladivostok – was launched in 2013 and the second – the Sevastopol is planned to be finished in 2015. However, in mid-2014, the French side said it was suspending the ships’ handover citing the complicated international situation and the sanctions the EU had introduced against Russia over the Ukraine crisis.

At the same time, the French side played down allegations the contract had been severed as “premature.”

Russian officials said they expected France to either deliver the ships or return the advance payment.