Russia has "temporarily" suspended on-site inspections of its strategic nuclear weapons by the US under a 2010 arms control treaty known as New START, citing travel curbs, sanctions and coronavirus infections.
The Russian foreign ministry announced on Monday that facilities in the nuclear weapons sites subject to inspections under the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (New START) will be "temporarily" exempt from such inspections.
“On August 8, 2022, the Russian Federation officially informed the United States via diplomatic channels that our country is temporarily exempting its facilities from inspection activities under the New START Treaty,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that it also covers “facilities that can be used for demonstrations under the treaty.”
The ministry accused the US of ignoring "existing realities" such as "the suspension of normal" air links.
Inspection conditions proposed by Washington created "unilateral advantages for the United States and effectively deprive the Russian Federation of the right to conduct inspections on American territory," the statement noted.
The ministry statement stressed that the exemptions would be immediately revoked in case of a “resolution of the existing problems and issues regarding the resumption of inspection activities under the treaty.”
The first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, START I, was signed in 1991 between the US and the USSR and took effect in 1994. New START is the last remaining arms reduction pact that was signed in 2010 between former US President Barack Obama and former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and caps to 1,550 the number of nuclear warheads that can be deployed by Moscow and Washington.
Russia said it remains fully committed to complying with all the provisions of the treaty but noted that Moscow is “forced to resort to this measure as a result of Washington's persistent desire to implicitly achieve a restart of inspections on conditions that do not take into account existing realities.”
Moscow also accused Washington of seeking “to create unilateral advantages” and deprive Russia of “the right to carry out inspections on American soil”.
Referring to the new spike of the coronavirus in the US, the foreign ministry said “in the current circumstances, the parties should abandon patently counterproductive attempts to artificially speed up the resumption of START inspection activities and focus on a thorough study of all existing problems in this area.”
The decision comes at a time when relations between Russia and the US have hit a new low over Moscow's military operation in Ukraine, which has seen unprecedented sanctions being imposed on Moscow.
Russia launched a military operation in Ukraine in late February, following Kiev’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements and Moscow’s recognition of the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.
At the time, Russian President Vladimir Putin said one of the goals of what he called a “special military operation” was to “de-Nazify” Ukraine.