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‘Russia will make banned missiles if US exits treaty’

MOSCOW, Dec 5, (Agencies): Russia will develop missiles now banned under the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty if the United States exits the arms control pact and starts making such weapons, President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday.

The United States delivered Russia a 60-day ultimatum on Tuesday to come clean about what Washington says is a violation of the 1987 nuclear arms control treaty, saying it would be forced to start a six-month process of withdrawal if nothing changes. Putin, in televised comments, accused the United States of blaming Russia for violations as a pretext for Washington to exit the pact.

Putin noted that many countries produce missiles banned under the INF treaty, but that Moscow and Washington had undertaken to limit themselves with the accord signed in 1987. “Now it seems our American partners believe that the situation has changed so much that the United States must also have such a weapon. What’s our response? It’s simple: in that case we will also do this,” he said.

Putin on Wednesday dismissed US claims Russia is violating a major Cold War treaty limiting midrange nuclear arms, as a senior general lashed out at Washington’s attempts to “contain” Moscow. The tense rhetoric comes a day after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington would withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty (INF) within 60 days if Russia does not dismantle missiles that the US claims breach the deal.

“First the American side stated its intention to withdraw from the treaty… then it began to look for the justifications for doing so,” Putin said in comments carried by Russian news agencies. “The primary justification is that we are violating something. At the same time, as usual, no evidence of violations on our part has been provided,” he said. The comments echoed earlier statements from the Russian foreign ministry, which dismissed the accusations against Moscow as “groundless”.

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