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Fears Grow That Russia May Leave Nuclear Test Ban Treaty

Russian lawmakers will evaluate whether to revoke ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, the speaker of the lower house of parliament said Friday.

Vyacheslav Volodin’s statement came after Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that Moscow could consider rescinding the ratification of the international pact, since the United States never ratified it.

“It conforms with our national interests,” Volodin said. “And it will come as a quid pro quo response to the United States, which has still failed to ratify the treaty.”

The 1996 treaty prohibiting “any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion” anywhere in the world has been signed by 187 nations, but the U.S. and seven others haven’t ratified it.

The United States, however, has observed a moratorium on nuclear weapons test explosions since 1992 that it says it will continue to abide by.

A U.S. State Department spokesperson, speaking of Russia’s possible revocation, told Reuters that “a move like this by any state party needlessly endangers the global norm against nuclear explosive testing.”

“It would be concerning and deeply unfortunate if any state signatory were to reconsider its ratification of the CTBT,” Robert Floyd, chairman of the commission that promotes support for the treaty, said in a statement.

There are widespread concerns that Russia could move to resume nuclear tests to try to discourage the West from continuing to offer military support to Ukraine.

Volodin said senior lawmakers would discuss recalling the 2000 ratification of the treaty at the next meeting of the agenda-setting house council.

“Washington and Brussels have unleashed a war against our country,” Volodin said. “Today’s challenges require new decisions.”

Asked Friday if rescinding the ban could lead to the resumption of tests, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters that “it doesn’t mean a statement about the intention to resume nuclear tests.”

Peskov noted that a possible move to revoke Russia’s ratification of the pact would “bring the situation to a common denominator” with the U.S.

Speaking Thursday at a forum with foreign affairs experts, Putin said that while some experts have talked about the need to conduct nuclear tests, he hasn’t yet formed an opinion on the issue.

“I’m not ready to say yet whether it’s necessary for us to conduct tests or not,” he said.

Expulsions from embassy

The U.S. State Department said Friday that it had expelled two Russian Embassy officials after Russia expelled two U.S. diplomats from the American Embassy in Moscow.

“In response to the Russian Federation’s specious expulsion of two U.S. Embassy Moscow diplomats, the State Department reciprocated by declaring persona non grata two Russian Embassy officials operating in the United States,” a State Department spokesman said.

“The department will not tolerate the Russian government’s pattern of harassment of our diplomats,” the spokesman said, adding that “unacceptable actions against our embassy personnel in Moscow will have consequences.”

An unnamed source in the Russian foreign ministry, cited by the Russian RIA news agency, characterized the expulsion of the Russian Embassy officials as groundless. The source said Washington expelled the officials using the pretext of Moscow’s September 14 expulsion of two U.S. diplomats “caught red-handed engaging in spying activities.”

“We are not interested in escalation, but if such hostile actions continue, as always, we will respond firmly and decisively,” RIA quoted the source as saying.

Relations between Moscow and Washington have deteriorated to their worst point in more than 60 years because of the war in Ukraine.

Kharkiv attacks

The U.N. and partners mobilized humanitarian assistance — including medical supplies and health support, shelter maintenance kits, nonfood items, cash and hygiene assistance — as well as mental health and psychosocial support after Russian strikes Thursday and Friday killed at least 54 civilians in Ukraine’s Kharkiv region, said Denise Brown, the U.N.’s humanitarian coordinator for Ukraine.

“These are barbaric consequences of this war, that 20% of the community can be wiped out in seconds,” Brown said on X, formerly known as Twitter.

A Russian missile strike killed a 10-year-old boy and his grandmother Friday in the same region where at least 52 people, including a child, were killed Thursday, from another Russian attack in the eastern village of Hroza. According to The Associated Press, “body parts were strewn across a nearby children’s playground that was severely damaged by the strike.”

Ukrainian officials bitterly condemned the attack, which blew apart a cafe where a wake was being held for a soldier from Hroza who had died last year. He was being reburied in his hometown.

During his nightly video address Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy condemned the attacks and stressed the importance of Ukraine’s bolstering its air defense and strengthening its infrastructure in view of the approaching winter.

Meanwhile, Russia said its anti-aircraft units repelled Friday what appeared to have been an attempt to attack the Crimean port of Sevastopol from the sea.

“Anti-aircraft systems have been in action,” wrote Mikhail Razvozhayev, the Russian-installed governor of Sevastopol, on the Telegram messaging app. “Preliminary indications are that an air attack from the sea has been thwarted.”

Source: VOA News