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Russian Duma passes bill to revoke ratification of Nuclear Test Ban Treaty

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Russia’s parliament moved quickly to fulfill President Vladimir Putin’s wish by finalizing passage of a bill that changes Moscow’s legal position on nuclear testing at a time of acute tensions with the West.

The lower house, the State Duma, on Wednesday passed the second and third readings of a bill that revokes Russia’s ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, or CTBT. Both were adopted unanimously by a vote of 415 to 0.

Putin on October 5 urged the Duma to make the change to “reflect” the position of the United States, which signed but never ratified the 1996 treaty.

“We understand our responsibility towards our citizens, we protect our country. What is happening in the world today is the sole fault of the United States,” said Parliament Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin.

Since invading Ukraine last year, Putin has repeatedly reminded the West of Russia’s nuclear power. On Wednesday, state television showed rare footage of him during a visit to Beijing, accompanied by naval officers carrying what is called a nuclear briefcase that can be used to order a nuclear strike.

Russia says it will not resume nuclear testing unless Washington does, but arms control experts fear it could come close to a test that the West would perceive as a Russian nuclear escalation amid the war in Ukraine.

They argue that a test by Russia or the United States could prompt the other to do the same, and that China, India and Pakistan could then follow, triggering a new global arms race. All currently observe test moratoriums, and only North Korea has conducted a test involving a nuclear explosion this century.

Russia initially ratified the CTBT in 2000. Although it is reversing that measure, it has so far said it will remain a signatory to the treaty and continue to provide data to the global monitoring system that alerts the world of any tests nuclear.

But when he presented the bill on Tuesday, Parliament Speaker Volodin raised the possibility that Moscow would withdraw completely and said it would leave Washington uncertain about its intentions.

“And what we do next – whether we remain a party to the treaty or not – we will not tell them. We have to think about global security, the security of our citizens and act in their interests,” he said. declared.

The law will now be submitted to the Upper House and to Putin for signature.

Putin said earlier this month that he was aware of calls for Russia to resume nuclear testing, but was not prepared to say whether Moscow should do so.

Last February, he declared that Russia must “prepare everything” to carry out a test in case Washington does so. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu visited the Russian testing ground in the isolated Novaya Zemlya archipelago in the north of the country in August.

CNN published satellite images last month showing that Russia, the United States and China have all built new facilities at their nuclear test sites in recent years.

Russia’s change to the CTBT follows the suspension earlier this year of New START, the latest bilateral nuclear treaty with the United States, which limits the number of strategic warheads each side can deploy.

Experts from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said the two measures could be aimed at “sowing concern and uncertainty among states supporting Ukraine in its defense against illegal invasion of Russia.

They said the CTBT decision “weakens international stability and diminishes humanity’s chances of avoiding a new nuclear arms race.”

But they added: “In this case, it is difficult for the United States to go far in criticizing Putin’s announcement and Russia’s potential withdrawal from the CTBT, since the United States itself does not have failed to ratify and become a party to the treaty over the past 27 years. since the first signature.”

Melissa Parke, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, called Russia’s action irresponsible.

She said treaties like the CTBT “are essential to ensure that nuclear testing, which has harmed people’s health and caused widespread radioactive contamination, does not resume.”

Post-Soviet Russia has never conducted a nuclear test. The Soviet Union conducted a final test in 1990 and the United States in 1992.

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