France threw a highly contentious arms deal with Russia into doubt on Wednesday over the Ukraine crisis, saying that it was premature to schedule the delivery of a sophisticated French-built warship to the Russian Navy.
A statement issued by President François Hollande’s office said he had told a meeting of ministers that despite a possible cease-fire in Ukraine between government forces and Russian-backed separatists, the conditions for France to deliver the first warship had not yet been met.
Mr. Hollande also called the situation in Ukraine “grave” and said that Russia’s recent actions in eastern Ukraine were against “the foundations of security in Europe.”
France has been widely criticized over its plans to proceed with the $1.6 billion sale of two Mistral-class amphibious assault ships, which can carry troops, landing craft and helicopters. France had insisted on completing the sale even as Russia seized and annexed the Crimean Peninsula in March and supported the pro-Russian separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine.
The first vessel was to be delivered to Russia later this year. Russian sailors have been in France since the beginning of the summer for training on the ship’s operation.
Mr. Hollande’s announcement came as the heads of the NATO allies were preparing to meet in Wales to discuss how to deal with Russia’s increasingly aggressive behavior.
The United States has expressed concern for years about the Mistral sale to Russia, which has its roots in a 2009 decision by Mr. Hollande’s predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, to propose the deal as part of his plan to help France’s troubled shipbuilding industry.
In a visit to Washington in May, two months after Russia annexed Crimea, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius of France said the Mistral sale reflected an appropriate balance between “dialogue and firmness” in dealings with the Kremlin. Secretary of State John Kerry told Mr. Fabius that the deal was not helpful and should be prevented, State Department officials said at the time.