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Russia Takes Further Step Toward Exiting Open Skies Treaty

A Tupolev Tu-214ON monitoring aircraft developed under the Open Skies monitoring program takes off at Ramenskoye airport during an air show outside Moscow.

The Russian parliament's upper chamber, the Federation Council, has voted to withdraw the country from the Open Skies Treaty allowing surveillance flights over military facilities, following the departure from the accord by the United States late last year.

The move to exit from the treaty, which was approved by the parliament's lower chamber, the State Duma, last month, is now expected to be signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The accord, signed in 1992 and entered into force in 2002, allows its 34 signatories to conduct short-notice, unarmed observation and surveillance flights over one another's territories to collect data on military forces and activities. More than 1,500 flights have taken place under the agreement.

The United States formally withdrew on November 22, 2020, from the verification agreement, which Washington repeatedly said Moscow "flagrantly violated," six months after giving notice of its pending exit.

The U.S. move was another blow to the system of international arms control that former President Donald Trump had repeatedly scorned, complaining that Washington was being either deceived or unfairly restrained in its military capabilities.

The administration of President Joe Biden, who replaced Trump in the White House in January, said last month that it had decided not to reenter the Open Skies Treaty.

During his election campaign, Biden had criticized Trump's withdrawal from the treaty as "short-sighted."

Putin and Biden are expected to meet in Geneva on June 16.

The summit will be held with U.S.-Russia ties at their lowest levels since the Cold War, following Russia's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula, the Kremlin's ongoing support of separatists in Ukraine's east, where more than 13,200 people have been killed since April 2014, accusations of Moscow's interference in U.S. elections, and hacking attacks Washington says involved Russian actors.

With reporting by AP, TASS, and Interfax
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