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30 Nov 2007 13:51
President Vladimir Putin on Friday signed into law Russia’s suspension of a Cold War treaty limiting military forces in Europe as a senior lawmaker warned that other international accords could be reviewed.
The signing came on the final day of campaigning ahead of parliamentary elections on Sunday in which Putin has accused the West of trying to weaken Russia.
“President Putin has signed the federal law on suspending Russia’s adherence to the Conventional Forces in Europe [CFE] Treaty,” the Kremlin said in a statement.
The treaty’s demise highlights deteriorating relations between Moscow and Nato countries as Putin leads a drive to bolster Russia’s clout on the international stage.
Following Putin’s signature, the suspension will enter into force on December 12, but a senior Defence Ministry official said the decision would not trigger any immediate redeployment of Russian forces on its western flank.
“The entry into force of the moratorium does not mean that Russia will immediately start redeploying troops on its flanks,” said the unnamed official quoted by the Interfax news agency.
“But we reserve the right to move our forces on our territory where we consider them necessary,” he said.
First deputy speaker Lyubov Sliska said other international treaties could be re-examined by the new Parliament that is to be elected on Sunday and is set to be dominated by Putin’s United Russia party.
“I think that we were right to do this and we should have done it earlier,” Sliska, a senior member of United Russia, was quoted by Interfax as saying.
“I believe that this is a first step toward reviewing those agreements that do not suit Russia, or harm it,” Sliska said.
Putin, who is the lead candidate for United Russia in Sunday’s vote, had ordered the moratorium in July amid a row over United Sates plans to install an anti-missile shield in eastern Europe.
Criticising the CFE, the speaker of the upper House of Parliament, another Putin ally, described provisions of the treaty as “absolutely colonial”.
“Under this agreement, we cannot move a single tank on our own territory,” said Sergei Mironov, quoted by Interfax.
“Russia fulfilled the CFE provisions in good faith while Nato bases sprang up in Romania and Bulgaria, and the US prepared to install its anti-missile defence system along Russia’s border,” Mironov said.
Signed by Nato members and states of the defunct Warsaw pact, the 1990 CFE treaty places strict limitations on the deployment of tanks and other military hardware across Europe.
Moscow says the CFE is not working because an updated version agreed in 1999 to take account of the break-up of the Communist bloc has been ratified by Russia but not by Nato countries.
Nato members, led by the US, say they cannot ratify the pact because Moscow has not fully complied with a related commitment to withdraw its military presence from ex-Soviet Georgia and Moldova.
Putin last week warned Nato against “muscle-flexing” on Russia’s border and ordered top generals to raise the combat readiness of the country’s nuclear missiles.—AFP
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