Russian defence and foreign ministries' officials
© Reuters / Maxim Shemetov
FILE PHOTO: News briefing by Russian defence and foreign ministries' officials about the SSC-8/9M729 missile system
Moscow will not abandon the INF Treaty and will make efforts to keep the landmark agreement in place even after Washington suspends its membership, Russia's Foreign Ministry deputy head, Sergey Ryabkov said.

"Absolutely not," Ryabkov told journalists when answering a question on whether Russia believes the INF Treaty may be given up on. Moscow considers the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), which was initially signed by the US and the USSR to denuclearize the European continent, to be well worth preserving regardless of Washington's actions, he added.

Even after the US withdraws from the deal in February "we will continue our work," the deputy foreign minister said, adding that Russia will still work to "preserve this document" and nothing the US does will change its approach to the issue. He also expressed his hope that "common sense will prevail" eventually.

Earlier, Ryabkov said the US side confirmed to Russia that its decision to leave the treaty is "final."
They made it clear that the announced step is not an invitation for a dialog but ... is a final [decision]
Signed in 1987, the INF Treaty bans ground-based missiles with a range between 500km and 5,500km - plenty of which had been deployed by both sides of the Cold War at that time. Over the past years, the US has been claiming that Russia has been violating the INF by building missiles it prohibits. Moscow has denied the allegations and in turn accused the US of non-compliance, arguing that it can convert missile defense sites in Eastern Europe into offensive intermediate-range launchers.

Most recently, Ryabkov said that many pieces of evidence the US put forward to support its accusations against Russia were in fact "fabricated." Still, Russia took an unprecedented step in terms of transparency and unveiled extra details about the missile, which is still under development in Russia and which the US claims is in breach of the INF, in a public event.

The journalists, who attended the presentation, were also given a chance to compare the 9M728 and the 9M729, which were displayed in their containers, and inspect the 9M729 launcher. "It is such constructive actions that would pave the way for preserving the treaty," Ryabkov said, commenting on the public missile display.

The Americans, who had been invited as well, just did not appear at the event. A week before the presentation, Washington announced it will begin the treaty withdrawal on February 2. On Thursday, the US and Russia held another round of consultations on the treaty, which "didn't break any new ground," as Andrea Thompson, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, who led the US delegation at the event, put it.

Washington continues to bluntly demand that Russia destroys the missile that the US considers to be in violation of the treaty - a demand that Moscow sees as absolutely unacceptable.

"The only way you can get the system back into compliance is to destroy the missile. There's no way to alter it, there's no way to change it, there's no way to adjust the fuel cycle, and we've laid that out to them repeated times," Thompson said following the meeting. She also confirmed that the US intends to leave the agreement but still admitted that the move is "reversible" within the next six months.

Moscow believes all the accusations against Russia are being used by Washington only as a pretext for the treaty withdrawal while its real goals consist in building up its arsenal and obtaining advantages over its geopolitical rivals.