Russia and the United States have blamed each other for abandoning a landmark arms control agreement on missiles, with Moscow warning of a new arms race and the Trump administration demanding details of a mysterious explosion that killed five Russian nuclear engineers.
Russia called a UN Security Council meeting following the US test of a missile banned by the 1987 intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which both countries withdrew from on August 2.
Russia's deputy UN ambassador, Dmitry Polyansky, criticised what he called American "hypocrisy," saying the US "consistently and deliberately violated the INF treaty for some time." He said the missile test on August 18, so soon after the treaty's expiration, proved it.
Acting US Ambassador Jonathan Cohen countered that Russia decided more than a decade ago to break its INF treaty obligations and has deployed multiple battalions of ground-launched cruise missiles "with the ability to strike critical European targets."
America's NATO allies joined Cohen in blaming Russia for what France's deputy ambassador, Anne Gueguen, called "the death of the treaty."
Britain's political coordinator Stephen Hickey, said Russia's actions "are in line with a pattern of aggression that represents a clear threat to international peace and security".
Russia's envoy urged the Europeans to realise "that because of the US's geopolitical ambitions we are all one step from an arms race that cannot be controlled or regulated in any way."
Cohen also asked Russia to tell the council what caused an explosion on August 8 at a Russian navy test site in the country's northwest. "What system was it, and what purpose does that system serve?"
Russian President Vladimir Putin insisted on Wednesday that the explosion, which killed two servicemen and five nuclear engineers and injured six, hasn't posed any radiation threat, but he remained coy about the circumstances of the incident.
Changing and contradictory accounts of the explosion by Russian officials drew comparisons to Soviet attempts to cover up the 1986 explosion and fire at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine, the world's worst nuclear disaster.
Looking ahead, Polyansky said the demise of the INF treaty put "at risk" the START treaty on long-range nuclear weapons that is scheduled to expire in 2021. President Donald Trump said recently he has been discussing a new agreement to reduce nuclear weapons with China and Russia.
Australian Associated Press