Russia said it was suspending United States on-site inspections under a strategic arms control treaty with Washington, pointing to Western sanctions and coronavirus infections, adding that Moscow remains committed to all provisions of the treaty.
The Russian foreign ministry said facilities that are subject to inspections under the New START treaty will be “temporarily” exempt from such inspections.
The announcement comes as ties between Russia and the US unravel over Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine and debilitating Western sanctions.
“Russia is now forced to resort to this measure as a result of Washington’s persistent desire to implicitly achieve a restart of inspections on conditions that do not take into account existing realities,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
New START is the last remaining arms reduction pact between the former Cold War rivals and caps to 1,550 the number of nuclear warheads that can be deployed by Moscow and Washington.
Moscow also accused Washington of seeking “to create unilateral advantages” and deprive Russia of “the right to carry out inspections on American soil”.
The statement indicated it had become hard for Moscow to carry out inspections on American soil due to Western sanctions including the closure of air space for Russian planes and visa restrictions.
Moscow also pointed to a new spike in coronavirus cases in the US.
“We believe that in the current circumstances, the parties should abandon patently counterproductive attempts to artificially speed up the resumption of START inspection activities and focus on a thorough study of all existing problems in this area,” the foreign ministry said.
Last year, the US and Russia extended New START by the maximum allowed time of five years.
Moscow’s announcement came after US President Joe Biden called on Russia and China to demonstrate their commitment to limiting nuclear arms.
Russia should demonstrate its willingness to renew the nuclear arms reduction pact when it expires in 2026, Biden said.
The Kremlin told the US last week that time was running out to negotiate a replacement for the “New START” treaty and, if it expired in 2026 without a replacement, global security would be weakened.
The conflict in Ukraine has raised political tensions to levels not seen since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, with politicians in both Russia and the US speaking publicly of the risk of World War III.