More reports on: Defence general

France slams UK over criticism of warship deal with Moscow

23 July 2014

France lashed out at the UK yesterday with foreign minister Laurent Fabius asking "British friends" to target the Russian oligarchs in London rather than Paris's controversial 1.2-billion warship deal with Moscow, which had also been described by Washington as "completely inappropriate".

French foreign minister Laurent Fabius made his irritation with the UK public yesterday after London slammed its warship deal with Moscow, pointing out that the UK capital was full of "Russian oligarchs."

The deal, which would see France sell two warships to Russia for 1.2 billion comes at a time when the west has come to harbour strong misgivings about Moscow's role in the Ukraine crisis, especially after the downing of flight MH17 suspected of being targeted by pro-Kremlin rebels.

UK prime minister David Cameron said on Monday that it would be unthinkable in the UK to fulfill an order like the one outstanding that the French had.

In response to a question on French television about the controversy surrounding the contract, Fabius injecting a strong dose of sarcasm, said the British in particular were very pleasant when they said "we would never have done that".

"Dear British friends, let's also talk about finance. I was led to believe that there were quite a few Russian oligarchs in London."

When the interviewer asked whether he was inviting the British to put their own house in order before making comments, Fabius said, "Exactly."

European leaders had come under intense pressure to impose tough sanctions on Russia.

However, Hollande has vowed to press on with the deal.

Cameron meanwhile, is calling for tougher sanctions against Russian president Vladimir Putin and his 'cronies' in a bid to force Moscow to rein in separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Following an emergency summit in Brussels, Cameron welcomed an agreement in principle to widen measures against Putin's 'cronies' and to consider targeting Russia's defence sector.

Russian president Vladimir Putin last year dismissed the UK through his spokesman as 'a small island'  nobody paid attention to except of course the Russian "oligarchs who had bought Chelsea".

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