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Decision on halting inspections under New START made upon mutual agreement - diplomat

Noting that normal activities would resume after the situation normalized, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said

MOSCOW, March 29. /TASS/. The decision on suspending inspections under the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) was made upon the sides’ mutual agreement and they will resume after the coronavirus situation normalizes, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told TASS on Sunday.

"The decision on suspending inspections under the New START as well as the decision on postponing the meeting of the Bilateral Consultative Commission, scheduled for the second half of March, was made upon the sides’ agreement," the diplomat said.

The agreement has been put on paper, Ryabkov said, noting that normal activities would resume after the situation normalized.

The session of the Bilateral Consultative Commission (BCC) has been postponed until autumn, Ryabkov said. "This will be the last meeting unless the treaty is extended." "We will use this opportunity to remind the US administration that it is necessary to achieve the goal of extending New START," Ryabkov stressed.

Executive Director of the Arms Control Association Daryl Kimball earlier told TASS that Russia and the United States had agreed to suspend on-site inspections under New START until May 1 amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The New START Treaty, which was signed by Moscow and Washington in 2010, stipulates that seven years after it goes into effect, each party should have no more than a total of 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) and strategic bombers, as well as no more than 1,550 warheads on deployed ICBMs, deployed SLBMs and strategic bombers, and a total of 800 deployed and non-deployed missile launchers.

The document is set to remain in effect until February 5, 2021, unless it is replaced with another agreement on nuclear arms reduction. It can also be extended for no more than five years (until 2026) with the consent of both parties.

Moscow calls on Washington not to delay solving the issue on a possible extension of the treaty, which it has described as "a golden standard" in disarmament. Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview with The Financial Times in June that if this treaty ceased to exist there would be no other tools in the world containing the arms race.

US President Donald Trump said on February 29 that Washington planned to hold a meeting of leaders of five permanent members of the UN Security Council to discuss arms control issues. The leaders of Russia, China, the United Kingdom, France and the US are expected to gather for a meeting during the general debate at the 75th session of the UN General Assembly in September.

The pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus has affected most countries in the world, beginning with the outbreak in central China in late December 2019. According to the latest data, more than 620,000 people have contracted the coronavirus globally and nearly 30,000 have died. Russia has registered a total of 1,534 coronavirus cases. The death toll has reached eight.