Russia denies breaking treaty after alleged missile deployment

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Russian President Vladimir PutinImage source, AP
Image caption,
President Vladimir Putin was testing Mr Trump, Senator John McCain said

Russia has denied violating a Cold War-era missiles treaty, following accusations by officials in US President Donald Trump's administration.

The unnamed US officials said that Russia had deployed a banned cruise missile.

A Kremlin spokesperson said on Wednesday that Russia continued to uphold its international commitments.

The US state department has made no official comment.

The alleged deployment is expected to be discussed during Wednesday's Nato meeting in Brussels, the first since President Trump took office.

Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he would not comment on intelligence reports but added that any non-compliance from Russia on the arms control treaty would be a "serious concern for the alliance".

The Brussels meeting will be attended by US Defence Secretary James Mattis.

"Nobody has formally accused Russia of violating the treaty," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a press briefing.

"Russia has been and remains committed to its international commitments, including to the treaty in question," he said.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Mr Putin and ex-President Barack Obama had diplomatic run-ins over the missiles treaty

A New York Times report, citing administration officials, said that the Russians now have two battalions of the prohibited cruise missile.

Republican Senator John McCain responded to the missile allegation with a statement calling on the Trump administration to enhance US nuclear deterrents in Europe.

He said Russian President Vladimir Putin was "testing" Mr Trump.

The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) was first signed by the US and the Soviet Union in 1987.

It bans the use of ground-based, intermediate-range or short-range missiles by Russia or the US.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and US President Ronald Reagan signing the INF treaty in 1987

Russia has been accused of violating the treaty before, including under the Obama administration.

In 2014, the US accused the Russians of developing and testing cruise missiles.

Mr Putin has also previously said that the treaty no longer serves Russia's interests, and it is unfair as it does not apply to other countries that have since developed missiles within the same range.

The US relationship with Russia remains under intense scrutiny, after General Michael Flynn resigned as the president's national security adviser on Tuesday.

Mr Flynn quit on Monday over claims he discussed US sanctions with Russia before Donald Trump took office. Private citizens are not allowed to conduct US diplomacy.