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No unanimity among US intelligence community over claims of nuclear test in Russia —expert

Russia strongly rejected the accusations

WASHINGTON, June 15. /TASS/. The US intelligence community apparently has no single opinion on Pentagon’s claims that Russia carried out nuclear tests in recent years, in breach of its international commitments and domestic moratorium, a senior international non-proliferation expert told TASS on Friday.

"The DIA director received some push-back against his original statement, so this second statement appears intended to strengthen his claim by saying it’s supported by the Intelligence Community," said Hans Kristensen, the Director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) and an Associate Senior Fellow with the Stockholm-based SIPRI Disarmament, Arms Control and Non-proliferation Programme.

"But it’s unclear if that refers to a coordinated assessment by the Director of National Intelligence or to the views of other parts of the IC," said Kristensen, whose US-based non-commercial organization is conducting studies into matters of non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, nuclear disarmament and global security.

"Nor is it clear when those tests occurred or how significant the yields were. But if Russia did conduct tests with any yield, it would have violated not only the CTBT itself but also Moscow's own reassurances that the CTBT prohibits any yield, no matter how small," the expert continued. "Such an act would be highly irresponsible and strengthen the hand of those in the US administration that seek to roll back arms control agreements."

A similar opinion was expressed by Gary Samore, who was the White House coordinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction during the Obama administration.

"There has been speculation/suspicion for many years that Russia (and China) have been conducting very low yield nuclear tests but no solid evidence. I don’t know whether there is new information and I don’t know if the DIA conclusion is shared by other elements of the US intelligence community," said Samore, who is now a Senior Fellow with the Korea Project at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

Meanwhile, Executive Director of the Arms Control Association Daryl G. Kimball told TASS he was not surprised by the DIA’s refusal to reveal any information supporting the nuclear test claims.

"I am not surprised they have not clarified if their assessment is based on new intelligence or not. I believe this is a new interpretation of old data points," he said.

On Thursday, the DIA released a statement which said that "the US Government, including the Intelligence Community, has assessed that Russia has conducted nuclear weapons tests that have created nuclear yield." This document was prepared to elaborate the statement made by Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) Robert Ashley, who said on May 29 that "the United States believes Russia is probably not adhering to the nuclear testing moratorium in a manner consistent with the zero-yield standard."

When contacted by TASS, the office of the Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats, who officially coordinates the work of the 16 US intelligence agencies, refused to comment on whether the DIA statement reflects a coordinated position of the entire intelligence community.

Russia resolutely rejected Ashley’s statement. On May 29, Russian Permanent Representative to International Organizations in Vienna Mikhail Ulyanov told TASS that Russia observes the moratorium for nuclear tests. On May 31, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov dismissed the claims as nonsense.

The Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO Preparatory Commission) told TASS earlier that its specialists did not register any unusual events in Russia, and nuclear test monitoring systems operate in a regular mode.