President Vladimir Putin accused the U.S. of seeking to blackmail France into scrapping a contract to sell Mistral warships to Russia by offering to cut a record $8.97 billion fine against BNP Paribas SA. (BNP)
“We know about the pressure which our U.S. partners are applying on France not to supply the Mistrals to Russia,” Putin told Russian diplomats in Moscow today. “And we even know they hinted that if the French don’t deliver the Mistrals, they would quietly get rid of the sanctions against the bank, or at least minimize them,” he said without naming BNP Paribas.
“What is that if not blackmail?” Putin said.
With the European Union considering expanding sanctions against Russia, Ukraine ended a 10-day cease-fire yesterday, rejecting pressure from Putin to extend it. Ukraine has renewed an offensive against fighters in the east that its U.S. and EU allies say are backed by Russia. Putin has blamed the crisis on foreign interference, after failing to halt closer integration between Ukraine and the EU.
French President Francois Hollande has defied U.S. criticism and refused to cancel a contract to sell two Mistral-class helicopter carriers to Russia. Hollande, who took part in talks yesterday with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Putin, had supported an extension of the cease-fire.
Putin has “no evidence” to support his claims, which appear aimed at his domestic audience as well as public opinion in Europe, said Dmitry Oreshkin, an independent political analyst in Moscow.
“A responsible political leader wouldn’t usually allow himself to say something like this,” Oreshkin said by phone. “But Putin knows that the French aren’t particularly well-disposed toward the U.S. right now and he is trying to exploit that.”
Full article: Putin Says U.S Blackmailed France Over Warship With BNP Fine (Bloomberg)