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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Medvedev Scolds Slow Shipbuilder

RIA-Novosti / APMedvedev taking a ride near the Sevmash shipbuilding factory in front of the Yury Dolgoruky nuclear submarine.

SEVERODVINSK, Arkhangelsk Region — President Dmitry Medvedev on Thursday lashed out at shipbuilder Sevmash for delays on a landmark contract with India to refurbish a Soviet-era aircraft carrier.

Arms exports, which exceeded $8 billion last year, are a key source of revenue for Russia, with India and China accounting for the bulk of its sales.

In a $1.6 billion deal signed in 2004, Russia was to modernize the Admiral Gorshkov at Sevmash, in the northern port of Severodvinsk, and deliver the aircraft carrier by 2008. The modernization deal was expected to lead to other lucrative contracts, including for tanks, aircraft and warships.

After Russian delays, delivery was pushed back to 2012 and its price nearly doubled to $2.8 billion. The contract has been a sore issue in India-Russia ties.

“Now we all have to make excuses,” Medvedev told Sevmash general director Nikolai Kalistratov. “You have to make excuses to me, I have to make excuses to our Indian partners,” a visibly irritated Medvedev added.

The ship, already renamed the INS Vikramaditya, was launched in 1982 and decommissioned in 1996. Smaller than U.S. carriers and powered by steam engines rather than nuclear reactors, it originally carried helicopters and vertical takeoff and landing aircraft.

Russian engineers have had to lengthen the runway and build a proper springboard to allow conventional warplanes to reach takeoff speed.

“We have failed to assess correctly the scale and the complexity of the work,” Sevmash’s Kalistratov told Medvedev. “We in Russia are doing this for the first time.”

He said the ship would be handed over to India in late 2012. “We can’t make it earlier than that,” he said.

“Let’s consider this the first and most difficult experience,” Medvedev said. “You need to complete [the ship] and hand it over our partners. Otherwise, there will be grave consequences.”