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US pullout from INF Treaty powerful blow to arms control system: Russian diplomat

Xinhua | Updated: 2019-02-01 23:36

MOSCOW, Feb. 1 -- The pullout of the United States from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty will deal "a powerful blow to the still existing system of international arms control and non-proliferation of mass destruction weapons," a senior Russian diplomat said Friday.

"This is a serious step. It means an actual liberation of Washington from any restrictions related to the operation of the treaty," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said in an interview with Russia 24 TV channel.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Friday morning that the United States is withdrawing from the INF Treaty, citing Russia's violation of the deal, a claim that has been repeatedly denied by Moscow.

The INF Treaty was signed in 1987 between the Soviet Union and the United States, marking the first-ever pact reached by Washington and Moscow on nuclear disarmament and a major step forward in restricting the arms race.

However, the two sides have been accusing each other of violating the arms control agreement in recent years amid increasing tensions.

Ryabkov said Moscow started having claims against Washington practically from the initial stage of the implementation of the treaty.

In particular, the Russian side claimed the United States, while testing its missile defense system, used medium-range missiles, thus upgrading such weapons.

It also claimed the United States was deploying in Romania and Poland systems capable of launching Tomahawk-class cruise missiles in violation of the treaty.

Moscow believes that the treaty is needed as it serves the interests of both Russian and European security, Ryabkov said.

He noted that although some European countries under pressure from Washington voted in the United Nations General Assembly against the preservation of the INF, they would feel the real consequences of this step.

Ryabkov said he also fears that after abandoning the INF treaty, the United States would go further and leave another landmark agreement, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which expires in 2021, without it being extended.

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