Russia's defense ministry on Wednesday showcased a new missile the United States says violates a 1987 arms agreement aimed at eliminating intermediate and shorter-range missiles, something Russian authorities have denied.
Following an ongoing spat between Russia and the US over the former's development of the Novator 9M729 missile — which the US has said violates the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty) that bans missiles with a range of 500-5,500 kilometers (310-3,417 miles) — Russia invited foreign military attachés to view the weapon in question, which is part of the Iskander-M missile system.
"The 9M729 is simply a variation of the 9M728 ballistic missile," Russian chief of artillery and missile troops Lieutenant-General Mikhail Matveevsky said.
Matveevsky went on to explain that the new missile, although more powerful and precise than the 9M728, has a reach of 480 km, 10 km less than the 9M728, and that therefore it did not violate the INF Treaty.
He denied the missile had exceeded the agreed 500 kms in test flights carried out at the Kapustin Yar rocket launch and development site and said the public presentation of the arms was a "gesture of transparency."
At a meeting earlier on Thursday the Russian deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, alleged the US was refurbishing a factory in Tucson, Arizona, capable of producing intermediate and shorter-range ballistic missiles.
Riabkov said that, according to Russian sources, the US has been actively developing new missiles for a long time.
Washington has announced it is preparing to suspend INF Treaty obligations on Feb. 2, after which the US would trigger the required six-month process in order to formally pull out of the agreement.
Russia has said it would recognize the US' unilateral exit from the agreement.