Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures as he gives his annual state of the nation address in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023. (Photo: AP/Dmitry Astakhov, Sputnik, Kremlin)

Russian President Vladimir Putin suspended Moscow’s participation in the last remaining nuclear arms control pact with the United States, announcing the move Tuesday in a bitter speech in which he made clear he would not change his strategy in the war in Ukraine.

Putin emphasized, however, that Russia isn’t withdrawing from the pact yet, and hours after his address the Foreign Ministry said Moscow would respect the treaty’s caps on nuclear weapons. It also said Russia would continue to exchange information about test launches of ballistic missiles per earlier agreements with the United States.

In his long-delayed state-of-the-nation address, Putin cast his country — and Ukraine — as victims of Western double-dealing and said it was Russia, not Ukraine, fighting for its very existence.

“We aren’t fighting the Ukrainian people,” Putin said ahead of the war’s first anniversary Friday. “The Ukrainian people have become hostages of the Kyiv regime and its Western masters, which have effectively occupied the country.”

The speech reiterated a litany of grievances he has frequently offered as justification for the widely condemned military campaign, while vowing no military letup.

Along with limits on the number of nuclear weapons, the 2010 New START envisages broad inspections of nuclear sites. Putin said Russia should stand ready to resume nuclear weapons tests if the U.S. does so, a move that would end a global ban on such tests in place since the Cold War era.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres responded by calling for Russia and the United States to return to dialogue immediately because “a world without nuclear arms control is a far more dangerous and unstable one.”

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken described Moscow’s decision to suspend participation in the treaty as “really unfortunate and very irresponsible.”

“We’ll be watching carefully to see what Russia actually does,” he said while visiting Greece.

China’s U.N. Ambassador Zhang Jun called on the U.S. and Russia to “continue to negotiate with each other in finding a good solution.”

U.S. President Joe Biden, speaking in Poland a day after his surprise visit to Ukraine, did not mention the START suspension but blasted Putin for the invasion. He pledged continued support for Ukraine despite “hard and bitter days ahead.”

Source: AP


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