4 Min Read
* Russia to hold an international tender for carrier, paper
* Russia wants to buy four ships
* Sees venture as chance to acquire new technologies
(Adds comment from French, Russian shipbuilder)
By Steve Gutterman
MOSCOW, Aug 19 (Reuters) - Russia will invite bids from foreign and domestic shipbuilders to build a helicopter-carrier, broadening its options amid lengthy talks with France that have not produced a deal, the daily Kommersant said on Thursday.
Kommersant quoted the president of state-owned United Shipbuilding Corporation, Roman Trofimenko, as saying the Defence Ministry plans to hold an open international tender for the helicopter-carrier.
Defence Ministry officials could not immediately be reached for comment. Kommersant cited an unidentified ministry source as saying that a tender would be held, but the paper said the Defence Ministry would prefer to buy the ship abroad.
Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said in May that Russia wanted to buy four ships.
Russia has been trying to improve its war-fighting capability by acquiring helicopter-carriers, which Moscow has said would have helped in its August 2008 conflict with Georgia.
Russia has been in talks to buy the Mistral warship from France, and President Nicolas Sarkozy told shipyard workers last month that France would build two of the ships for Russia. A shipyard executive said at the time that the deal was expected to be sealed by the end of the year.
"France sees no reason to be worried about the current developments and negotiations are progressing normally in an excellent manner," an Elysee source said on Thursday.
Talks have been complicated by Russia's hopes of acquiring the ship with its weapons technology -- a prospect the commander of U.S. naval forces in Europe has said would cause concern.
Serdyukov said in May that Moscow was in preliminary discussions with Spain and the Netherlands as well.
Russian shipbuilders have also expressed interest. United Shipbuilding Corporation spokesman Igor Ryabov said on Thursday that three Russian shipbuilders might make bids, two of them in conjunction with foreign partners.
Ryabov said a joint venture between Russia and France would be the best way to build the warship for Russia.
"For Russian companies, construction of a modern helicopter-carrier is important first of all as a process of learning," Interfax quoted him as saying. "Our shipbuilders will be learning, filling the gap in some technologies."
State-run RIA cited Ryabov as saying the tender would be announced in September.
Russia's Baltic Sea neighbours, now NATO members, have expressed concern about Moscow's efforts to acquire the French vessel, which can carry up to 900 crew as well as helicopters and tanks. (Additional reporting by Dmitry Solovyov and Yann Le Guernigou; editing by Myra MacDonald)