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By John Helmer in Moscow

It has become the biggest tussle over a shipyard contract ever fought out in public in Russia.

Roman Trotsenko, chief executive of the state-owned United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC), told Fairplay today that negotiations are under way for USC to buy the designs, shipboard technology, and production licences for the building of Russia’s first amphibious landing and helicopter carrier in Russian shipyards.

The USC proposal, Trotsenko said through spokesman Igor Ryabov, is for $450 million per vessel; that is a 30% discount on the price offered to date by the French consortium of yards which have built the Mistral — DCN, Alstom Marine-Chantiers de l’Atlantique and Thales.

STX, the South Korean yard group, is offering to sell its Dok-Do prototype (picture) instead of the Mistral, and USC will construct several vessels at Russian yards which will include Northern and Baltic Plant at St. Petersburg, and Yantar at Kaliningrad. Yantar is still completing a prototype of its own, called the Ivan Gren.

Opposed to Trotsenko’s new plan are the French, who are offering a stripped-down, low-tech version of the Mistral model vessel; and also the Russian Ministry of Defence, which has insisted on buying the high-tech Mistral, or nothing.

“We chose the Korean project,” Ryabov said today, “because it would take an additional 18 months to develop a project of our own, so this is done to save time. We propose to purchase a license for the Dok-Do and build it in Russia, which we believe to be a better choice. If the Ministry of Defence turns down our proposal, it will mean they are going back on their word to hold a fair competition.”

Last week, Yantar, which was acquired by USC in February, applied to the Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) to block the Defence Ministry from pushing through its Mistral procurement on the ground that Russia’s law on competitive bidding for state contracts has been violated.

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