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Russia rejects US accusations of nuclear treaty breach

By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV
Associated Press

MOSCOW (AP) - Russia on Tuesday pledged adherence to a Cold War-era nuclear treaty and rejected U.S. accusations that it had violated it.

Speaking at a briefing, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the U.S. has failed to provide evidence to prove allegations of Russian breaches of the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces, or INF, treaty.

He added that Moscow is ready for an "honest but specific dialogue" and said Russia "has no intention to break the treaty."

The disagreements over the INF treaty come amid the Ukrainian crisis and may further foment Russia-West tensions.

Asked to comment on U.S. considerations to deploy land-based missiles in Europe as a possible response to the alleged Russian violations, Lavrov warned that "building up militarist rhetoric is absolutely counterproductive and harmful."

He said that Russia had its own grievances regarding the U.S. implementation of the treaty and that mutual concerns could be assuaged through dialogue.

The U.S. has accused Russia of flight-testing a ground-launched cruise missile with a range prohibited by the treaty. Russia denied the claim and, in its turn, alleged that some elements of the U.S. missile defense shield violate the treaty.

On a tougher note, Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said the U.S. was leveling accusations against Russia in order to justify its own military plans.

"We believe that the return of U.S. short and medium range missiles to Europe and their deployment in other regions from where they could pose a threat to Russia and other nations not following Washington's orders would have a sharply negative impact on global security and stability," Antonov said in a statement.

He said that the Defense Ministry had sent a formal note to the Pentagon asking it to present its official position on the subject.

The INF Treaty, signed by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987, eliminated an entire class of nuclear weapons. Its signing followed some of the darkest periods of the Cold War, when NATO allies hosted U.S. ground-launched cruise missiles and Pershing 2 ballistic missiles to countering Soviet SS-20 missiles.

The current tensions risk reigniting the old standoff. "If the treaty is broken, threats will primarily rise for Europe," the Interfax news agency quoted Ret. Maj. Gen. Vladimir Dvorkin as saying.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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