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Russia suspends plutonium deal with US amid worsening ties

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered a halt to a deal with the US on the disposing of weapons-grade plutonium. The move reflects the deterioration of relations between Moscow and Washington.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday signed a decree to suspend a deal with the United States on plutonium disposal, citing "unfriendly actions by Washington."

A preamble to the decree said that Russia was pulling out of the agreement because of "the emergence of a threat to strategic stability and as a result of unfriendly actions by the United States of America toward the Russian Federation."

Russia's draft law called on the US to take various measures, including stopping Ukraine- and Crimea-related sanctions against Moscow, in exchange for Russia reactivating the plutonium agreement. 

The US-Russian Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement, first signed in 2000, obliged each side to dispose of 34 metric tons of plutonium by burning it in nuclear reactors or transforming it into so-called MOX (mixed oxide) fuel. The deal, to which both countries recommitted in 2010, was seen as a key step in the fight against nuclear proliferation.

Putin claimed earlier this year that the US was violating its obligations by disposing of plutonium in a way that was reversible and would thus allow its possible further use in weapons.

Frosty ties

Putin's suspension of the deal comes as relations between Moscow and Washington reach their lowest ebb since the Cold War as a result both of Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, and Moscow's support of an insurgency by pro-Kremlin separatists in eastern Ukraine.

The United States has spearheaded a campaign that has seen international  economic sanctions imposed on Russia over its role in the Ukraine conflict.

tj/msh (AFP, Reuters)

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