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Dmitry Peskov. File Photo/Alamy
War in Ukraine

Russia withdraws from nuclear test treaty as it denies 'stalemate' in Ukraine war

Putin also said last month he was “not ready to say” whether Russia would carry out live nuclear tests.

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT VLADIMIR Putin has signed a law revoking Russia’s ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. The announcement comes as Russian officials insist the conflict in Ukraine has not reached a “stalemate”. 

The 1996 treaty outlaws all nuclear explosions, including live tests of nuclear weapons, though it never came into force because some key countries – including the United States and China – never ratified it.

Western countries have accused Russia of using reckless nuclear rhetoric since it launched its offensive on Ukraine last February.

Putin last week oversaw ballistic missile drills in what Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said was practice for a “massive” retaliatory nuclear strike against an unnamed enemy.

Putin also said last month he was “not ready to say” whether Russia would carry out live nuclear tests.

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) has urged Russia to continue its commitment to the treaty, including the operation on its territory of monitoring stations capable of detecting the slightest explosion in real time.

“Today’s decision by the Russian Federation to revoke its ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty is very disappointing and deeply regrettable,” CTBTO head Robert Floyd said on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The bill to revoke the treaty passed through Russia’s parliament last month in a fast-track process.

During parliamentary hearings, State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said the move to revoke the treaty was a response to the United States’ “cynicism” and “boorish attitudes” on nuclear weapons.

Although it never entered into force, the agreement was ratified by 178 countries, including nuclear powers France and Britain, and has symbolic value.

Its backers say it established an international norm against live tests of nuclear weapons, but critics say the potential of the deal remains unrealised without the ratifications of major nuclear powers.

Russia’s parliament ratified the agreement in June 2000, six months after Putin first became president.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has criticised the decision despite the fact that the United States has itself never ratified the treaty, a key obstacle preventing it from coming into force.  

“Unfortunately, it represents a significant step in the wrong direction, taking us further from, not closer to, entry into force” of the treaty, Blinken said in a statement.

‘Stalemate’ 

Meanwhile, Russia has denied a claim from Kyiv’s most senior military official that the nearly two-year conflict in Ukraine had reached a deadlock.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was responding to an interview in British media with Ukraine’s General Valery Zaluzhny, who said the two sides had reached an impasse along the sprawling frontline.

“No, it has not reached a stalemate,” Peskov told reporters.

“Russia is steadily carrying out the special military operation. All the goals that were set should be fulfilled,” he added, using the Kremlin’s name for the full-scale military intervention.

“Just like in the First World War, we have reached the level of technology that puts us into a stalemate,” he told the Economist, adding that: “There will most likely be no deep and beautiful breakthrough.”

Ukrainian forces launched a counteroffensive against entrenched Russian positions earlier this year but have gained limited ground.

Russian forces made limited progress in their own offensive earlier this year and recently launched a fresh push to fully encircle the eastern Ukrainian town of Avdiivka.

A Ukrainian military spokesman said earlier on Thursday however that Russian assaults on the industrial hub had eased.

Russian leader Vladimir Putin last year announced the annexation of four territories in eastern and southern Ukraine despite not having full military control over them.

© AFP 2023