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Russian official hints at 'highly likely' deal to build nuclear center in Serbia

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov (File photo)

A senior Russian official has hinted at a “highly likely” agreement to establish a nuclear center in Serbia during an upcoming President Vladimir Putin’s visit to the country’s capital Belgrade.

"Hopefully, it [the agreement] can be inked during our president’s visit, it’s highly likely," Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov announced Friday in a press briefing in Belgrade following a meeting with Serbia’s Foreign Minister and First Deputy Prime Minister Ivica Dacic, Russian state news agency Tass reported.

Underlining the high level of readiness for the deal, Borisov added: "If we speak about the essence of cooperation, this is cooperation in the area of peaceful nuclear development and also the use of Russian isotopes for the sake of medical research and medical diagnostics in Serbia."

"This is a new milestone in our relations," the Russian official further noted, pointing out that negotiations for the looming agreement with the Serbian side was conducted by deputy CEO of Russia’s state corporation Rosatom, Nikolai Spassky.

US President Donald Trump has confirmed reports that his administration plans to abandon a landmark Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) with Russia over claims that Moscow has violated the Cold War era nuclear weapons deal, further vowing American development of such mass-destructive weaponry.

"Russia has not adhered to the agreement. So we are going to terminate the agreement," Trump claimed last month during a political campaign rally in Nevada.

He further alleged: "Russia has violated the agreement. They've been violating it for many years. I don't know why president (Barack) Obama didn't negotiate or pull out. And we're not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and go out and do weapons (while) we're not allowed to."

“We’ll have to develop those weapons,” he then vowed.

The INF, which was signed in 1986 between then US president Ronald Reagan and Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev, allowed the US to counter Chinese moves to build up arms in the Pacific, but prevented Washington from deploying new nuclear armaments in response. 

Meanwhile, the Trump administration placed a new round of sanctions against 12 Russian individuals and businesses on Thursday.

The US Treasury Department said one Russian intelligence officer and another official in eastern Ukraine received sanctions for taking part in what it claimed as "serious human rights abuses." It also targeted eight entities for illegally operating on behalf of Russia in Crimea, a territory which rejoined Russia in 2014 following a referendum.

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