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Russian lawmakers vote to leave Open Skies security pact, after US withdrawal

Published: Updated:

Russia’s lower house of parliament voted on Wednesday to leave the Open Skies security agreement, another step in dissolving the Cold War-era pact that the US left last year.

The vote in the State Duma came hours before Russia’s foreign minister and his US counterpart were due to meet in Iceland to gauge the enormous gulf between the rival powers and confirm a summit between Presidents Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden.

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The United States said last week it was reviewing the previous administration’s withdrawal from the Open Skies treaty, as Russia moved formally to leave the post-Cold War pact aimed at building trust.

The treaty was signed in 1992 soon after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and came into force in 2002.

It allowed its nearly three dozen signatories to carry out short-notice flights over one another’s territories to monitor potential military operations.

Members include countries across Europe, the former Soviet Union and Canada.

Lawmakers in parliament voted unanimously in favor of quitting the accord, meaning now the upper house of parliament and Putin will need to sign off before Russia leaves Open Skies.

Before the vote, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Russia had made clear to Washington that “if a constructive solution to the issue was found, Russia might consider the possibility of remaining in the treaty.”

“Unfortunately, the US has given no clear response yet,” he said.

Since taking over the White House in January, Biden has taken a strong line against Russia, going as far as describing Putin as a “killer” -- in sharp contrast to his predecessor Donald Trump, who was accused of complacency towards the Russian leader.

Security cooperation is just one of several disputes plaguing the relationship between Moscow and Washington.

Biden and Putin have agreed in principle to hold their first summit, which will probably take place in June in a European country in the wake of the G7 summit and NATO leaders’ meeting.

Read more: US wants to avoid ‘militarization’ of the Arctic: Blinken