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Russia will no longer be bound by current weapons and equipment
Russia will no longer be bound by current weapons and equipment limitations after its moratorium on the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty comes into force, Russia's chief of the general staff said on Thursday.

The State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, voted on November 7 in favor of President Putin's bill to impose a moratorium on the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty.

The moratorium on the arms reduction pact is set to come into effect on December 12, after final approval by the upper house of parliament, expected to vote on the issue on November 16, and President Vladimir Putin.

"We will not consider ourselves bound by quantitative limitations on conventional weapons," Gen. Yuri Baluyevsky said in an interview with ATM, a Czech army journal, posted on the Defense Ministry's website.

"As to our future steps, starting from December 12, 2007 we will not provide any information, or accept or conduct any inspections stipulated by the [CFE] treaty," the general said.

Moscow considers the original 30-member CFE Treaty, signed in 1990, to be outdated since it does not reflect the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, the breakup of the Soviet Union, or recent NATO expansion. NATO countries have insisted on Russia's withdrawal from Transdnestr and other breakaway post-Soviet regions as a condition for their ratification of the CFE Treaty.

The amended version of the Soviet-era treaty was signed in 1999, and has not been ratified by any NATO countries.

The moratorium does not stipulate that Russia will permanently pull out of the CFE Treaty, although it temporarily "freezes" its implementation by Russia and serves as a warning that the country will protect its national interests with determination, an explanatory note to the document says.

Baluyevsky reiterated Thursday that Russia was wiling to continue work to resolve the current crisis, but said NATO must assume a constructive approach to the issue in order to achieve a breakthrough in future negotiations.

"Russia has done everything it could to revive the CFE treaty and we have travelled our half of the way [toward a compromise]," the general said.

Under the so-called Istanbul Agreements, a set of declarations signed along with the CFE treaty in 1999, in which Russia agreed to withdraw troops from Georgia and Moldova, Russia has so far completed the pullout of its military garrison from the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, handing over control of its headquarters to Georgia's Defense Ministry last December. It also formally handed over its military base at Akhalkalaki in southern Georgia to Tbilisi in June.

Moscow is also continuing a withdrawal from its military base at Batumi in southern Georgia, and has plans to complete the pullout ahead of the 2008 deadline stipulated under the Istanbul Agreements.

Meanwhile, Russia's Defense Ministry said on Thursday it could withdraw the remaining military equipment and ammunition from its Soviet-era depots in Transdnestr in six months if Moldova and its breakaway region reach an agreement on the future of the Russian-speaking enclave.

"Until Moldova and Transdnestr have reached an agreement on this issue, we cannot pull anything out," said Gen. Vladimir Isakov, Russia's deputy defense minister.

About 500 Russian servicemen currently guard almost 20,000 tons of ammunition left in Transdnestr following the pullout of Russia's 14th Army in the late 1990s.

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