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Russia moves closer to ditching landmark nuclear treaty

Russian lawmakers on Wednesday voted once more to revoke Moscow’s ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, moving the country another step closer to abandoning the landmark agreement. The 1996 treaty outlaws all nuclear explosions including live tests of nuclear weapons, but it has never come into force because some key countries — including the United States and China — have not ratified the treaty. In a fast-track hearing in the State Duma Wednesday, lawmakers voted unanimously to revoke Russia’s ratification of the treaty in a combined second and third reading of the bill. The initiative will next be voted on by Russia’s upper house, the Federation Council, before being sent to President Vladimir Putin to sign into law. Putin said earlier this month he was “not ready to say” whether Russia needed to carry out live nuclear tests. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told reporters last week that Moscow would only resume nuclear tests if the United States did so first. Although it never entered into force, the agreement has been ratified by 178 countries, including nuclear powers France and Britain, and has symbolic value. Its backers say it established an international norm against live tests of nuclear weapons, but critics say the potential of the deal remains unrealised without key ratifications. Russia’s parliament ratified the agreement in June 2000, six months after Putin first became president. Ahead of the vote, Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin accused the United States of “cynicism” and “double standards” over its policy on nuclear weapons. “Our vote will be a response to the US for their boorish attitude towards their responsibilities to maintain global security,” he said in the chamber on Tuesday, when lawmakers approved the bill’s first reading. Putin has repeatedly invoked Russia’s nuclear doctrine since launching a full-scale offensive in Ukraine in February 2022, triggering Western accusations of reckless nuclear rhetoric. Earlier this year Russia suspended its participation in New START, the last remaining bilateral nuclear weapons treaty between Washington and Moscow. In September last year, Putin said he was “not bluffing” about his readiness to use destructive weapons should Russia face an existential threat.

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