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Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov signed a government agreement with his French counterpart Christophe Castaner on the purchase of twenty 32-metre FPB 98 MK II coastal patrol boats from the Ocea (Sables d’Olonne).

The 32 metre long and 6 metre wide aluminium patrol boats are designed for surveillance missions in the exclusive economic zone. They reach more than 30 knots, have an endurance of about a week and cover over 1,000 nautical miles at 12 knots (Russian media report 35 knots maximum speed, and 1,200 nautical miles). The boats are designed for a crew of twelve and can be equipped with 30 mm artillery.

The boats are to be used “for the protection of the sea borders, sea surveillance and sea control operations, search and rescue, in the fight against sabotage and for secret service operations,” according to the Ukrainian Ministry of Interior.

Delivery will take place between 2021 and 2023. The boats will be commissioned for the State Border Guard Service and thus under the control of the Ministry of the Interior of Ukraine.

In a tweet, Avakov stated that the contract amounts to €136.5 million. It was also announced that Ukraine would pay 15% directly, the rest would be handled by a loan at special conditions arranged by the French Minister of the Economy and Finance. The sum covers the delivery of the boats as well as spare parts for two years of maintenance and training of crews and maintenance personnel. 15 boats will be built in France, five in Nikolaev. The embarked RIB as well as the armament will come from the Ukraine.

Ocea has already delivered FPB98 to Algeria (21), Benin and Suriname. Other types went to Nigeria and the Philippines. A date for signing the contract with the shipyard was not announced.

At their Brussels meeting on November 20, 2019, NATO foreign ministers had expressed their support for Ukraine both as an Alliance and through bilateral efforts in order to modernise the armed forces and defence institutions. Paris had already reacted to this and had finalised the negotiations with Kiev, which had probably been underway since June.

The fact that the boats will be delivered unarmed to Odessa can certainly be understood as a gesture to Russia.

According to the Ukrainian Ministry of Interior’s website, Airbus will deliver ten helicopters to Ukraine as early as 2020. The (overdue) modernisation of the Ukrainian national security forces thus seems to be slowly getting underway.

Hans Uwe Mergener