Putin ready for ‘serious conversation’ with US on INF Treaty

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov

We sent a series of practical proposals to the Americans on this issue.

"We are still ready to work to save the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty", Russia's top diplomat told reporters.

Tensions have risen over the fate of the INF, with Russian President Vladimir Putin threatening a new arms race if the agreement collapsed.

Russian Federation said on Wednesday that it had caught former USA marine Paul Whelan, who is being held in Russian Federation on spying charges, red-handed as he was carrying out illegal activities in his Moscow hotel room. This will be their first encounter since Thompson's appointment, TASS reported.

The United States and its North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies want Russian Federation to destroy its 9M729 nuclear-capable cruise missile system, which Washington says could allow Russian Federation to strike Europe at short notice, and comply with the INF.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said during a news conference that US newspaper reports about Trump withholding details of his meetings with Russia's president and an FBI investigation of whether he was working on Moscow's behalf reflected a plunge in journalism standards.

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She said Moscow's offers, such as a "static display" of the missiles, would not show whether they breach the treaty.

Last month, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington would withdraw from the Cold War treaty limiting mid-range nuclear arms within 60 days if Russian Federation does not dismantle missiles that the US claims breach the deal. At the same time, he also says the production and testing of such systems. Ryabkov said Tuesday's talks in Geneva centred on SSC-8 system but that U.S. demands regarding the missile were unacceptable.

The agreement, which caps the number of nuclear warheads held by Washington and Moscow, expires in 2021.

Russian Federation denies any such strategy and accuses U.S. President Donald Trump of using Moscow as a pretext to quit the INF.

Asked if Russian Federation would consider releasing minutes from President Vladimir Putin's one-on-one talks with Trump, Lavrov said doing so would defy the basic culture of diplomacy and dismissed the possibility.

Putin in December suggested he was open to the idea of other countries joining the INF treaty or to starting talks on a new agreement.

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