Latvia worried by Russian plan to buy French warship

December 9, 2009, Riga -- Latvia is concerned over Russia's plans to buy a French warship, the Baltic country's Defense Ministry said on Wednesday.

"Senior Defense Ministry officials have already warned that if Russia buys the vessel and deploys it in the Baltic Sea, Latvia may have to review its current defense strategy in the face of a new threat to national security," the ministry said in a statement.

Defense Minister Vinets Veldre plans to raise the issue at a meeting of the Baltic states' defense ministers on December 11, the ministry said.

Russia earlier said it is considering buying a Mistral-class helicopter carrier, worth 400-500 million euros (around $600-$750 mln), and potentially building three or four vessels of the same class in partnership with the French naval shipbuilder DCNS.

The chief of the General Staff said on Tuesday that Russia will decide whether to buy the ship by the end of 2009.

A Mistral-class ship is capable of transporting and deploying 16 helicopters, four landing barges, up to 70 vehicles including 13 battle tanks, and 450 soldiers. The vessel is equipped with a 69-bed hospital and can be used as an amphibious command ship.

Many Russian military and industry experts have questioned the financial and military sense of the purchase.

Latvia is a European Union and NATO member since 2004.

RIA Novosti

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