Russia has slammed as “unfounded” repeated US claims accusing Moscow of conducting nuclear tests beyond the the "zero yield" limit agreed in a nuclear test ban treaty, insisting that the move serves as a “cover up” for Washington’s own plans to withdraw from the agreement.
"The United States continues making unfounded accusations over Russia’s violation of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT)," said the Russian Foreign Ministry in a Monday statement cited by state news agency TASS, in reaction to a June 13 statement issued by the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).
"We once again stress that all such accusations are absolutely unfounded. They can be only considered as "a cover up" for Washington’s steps on leaving the CTBT and resuming full-fledged nuclear tests," the ministry further underlined.
The DIA had claimed in its statement that Russia has carried out tests that caused nuclear explosions. The allegation came following a speech in Washington by DIA Director Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, in which he suggested Russian violation of the CTBT.
"The United States believes that Russia probably is not adhering to its nuclear testing moratorium in a manner consistent with the 'zero-yield' standard," Ashley asserted on May 29 while addressing the Washington-based conservative think tank, The Hudson Institute.
"Zero-yield" refers to a nuclear test where there is no explosive chain reaction of the sort caused by an atomic bomb nuclear warhead.
Asked specifically whether US intelligence agencies had concluded Russia was conducting such tests in violation of the treaty, Ashley added, "They've not affirmed the language of zero yield."
"We believe they have the capability to do it, the way that they're set up," Ashley further stated without pointing to any concrete evidence verifying the vague claim.
The CTBT bans all nuclear explosions, either military or civilian, in any type of situation. It’s been signed and ratified by Russia, while only signed but not ratified by the US.
Moscow strongly rejected Ashley’s assertion immediately after his speech last month, when Russia’s Permanent Representative to International Organizations in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov, insisted in a statement carried by TASS that Moscow does observe the moratorium for nuclear tests. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also dismissed Ashley’s claims as nonsense on May 31.
'Washington to leave CTBT in similar fashion to INF'
Russia’s foreign ministry further pointed out in its statement on Monday that the US has not even bothered to invent at least a new scheme for fulfilling its plans and is almost completely repeating steps it took in abandoning the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.
"Apparently, soon we should expect a statement of the US administration that it does not consider it possible to remain in the CTBT, which is allegedly violated by other parties," it added, underlining that the crucial international treaty has become "another object of the destructive US policy on undermining the international architecture of agreements in the sphere of non-proliferation and arms control."
Earlier this year, US President Donald Trump announced that Washington was pulling out of the 1987 INF treaty, an agreement that eliminated an entire class of nuclear-tipped missiles with a range between 500-5,500 kilometers. Russia has suspended the deal in responses.
This is while another arms control treaty, New START, is due to expire in 2021 unless Washington and Moscow agree to extend it for another five years.
The controversial US claims come as nuclear test watchdog, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), has declared that its international monitoring system (IMS) was operating normally and had detected nothing unusual.
The remarks have intensified existing tensions between Moscow and Washington, who have been long at odds over the NATO military alliance's buildup on Russian borders.
Russian jet fighters intercept US bombers over the Baltic
Meanwhile, Russia’s National Defense Management Center announced on Monday that Russian Su-27 fighter jets intercepted US strategic bombers approaching its borders from the Black and Baltic Seas.
"On June 17, 2019, crews of Russian Su-27 fighter jets that were on combat duty intercepted US B-52H bombers that were approaching Russia’s state border from the Black and Baltic Seas," said a spokesman for the military agency quoted in a report by TASS, noting that the American war planes did not violate Russia’s border.
According to the report, Russian Su-27 fighter jet was scrambled on June 10 to intercept US and Swedish reconnaissance planes near Russia’s border over the Baltic Sea where the US-led NATO military alliance was holding drills.