Russia says range of disputed missile allowed under INF treaty

Source:AFP Published: 2019/1/23 21:58:41

Moscow on Wednesday insisted the range of a missile system that has prompted Washington to say it will withdraw from a key Cold War arms treaty is allowed under the agreement.

Russian artillery chief Mikhail Matveevsky told a briefing that the 9M729 missile's maximum range is 480 kilometers.

The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty bans missiles with a range above 500 kilometers.

Russia has long denied it violates the treaty but Wednesday's briefing was the first time it has offered details of the missiles in question.

"The distance was confirmed during strategic command and staff exercises" in 2017, Matveevsky told an audience of journalists and military attaches. 

Matveevsky said Moscow was presenting details of the missile system in the interests of "voluntary transparency." 

"The treaty must be preserved. It is for the American side to make the choice," said deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov, who was also at the briefing. The United States and Russia agreed to the INF treaty in 1987.

Last month Washington gave Russia a 60-day deadline - which ends on February 2 - to dismantle the missiles it claims breach the agreement or the US would begin the six-month process of formally withdrawing from the deal.

Russia and the US have accused each other of being in breach of the agreement and Washington has said honoring it no longer made sense.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said Moscow is ready to work with Washington to save the agreement, after bilateral talks in Geneva on the INF this month failed to resolve the impasse. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has threatened to develop nuclear missiles banned under the INF treaty if it is scrapped. 

He said in December he was open to the idea of other countries joining the deal or to starting talks on a new agreement.

Putin has also said that if Washington moved to place more missiles in Europe after ditching the deal, Russia would respond "in kind" and that any European countries agreeing to host US missiles would be at risk of a Russian attack.

Posted in: EUROPE

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