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Russian lawmakers ready to pass CFE Treaty moratorium - Mironov

UFA (WESTERN URALS), July 30 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian parliament could pass a bill on a unilateral moratorium of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe as early as September this year, a senior lawmaker said Monday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin declared a moratorium on Russia's compliance with the CFE Treaty on July 14, following a tense extraordinary conference in Vienna, where NATO member states refused to ratify the amended CFE until Russia fully withdrew its troops from Georgia and Moldova, a commitment given by late President Boris Yeltsin in Istanbul in 1999.

"We will review this document [the moratorium bill] at the beginning of the fall session [of parliament], in September," said Sergei Mironov, the speaker of the upper chamber of parliament.

"The moratorium on the CFE Treaty is Russia's justified and legitimate response to the refusal by NATO countries to ratify the treaty," Mironov said, adding that the majority of Russian lawmakers would certainly support the move.

The CFE Treaty was amended in 1999 in Istanbul in line with post-Cold War realities, and has so far only been ratified by Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, and Ukraine.

Moscow considers the original CFE Treaty, signed in 1990 by 30 countries to reduce conventional military forces on the continent, outdated since it does not reflect the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, the breakup of the Soviet Union, or recent NATO expansion.

Moldova and Georgia have refused to ratify the treaty until Russia withdraws its troops from their territories. Russia maintains a peacekeeping contingent in Georgia and a battalion guarding ex-Soviet ammunition depots in the self-proclaimed republic of Transdnestr in Moldova.

NATO countries have insisted on Russia's withdrawal from Transdnestr and other post-Soviet regions as a condition for their ratifying the CFE Treaty. NATO's reluctance to ratify the re-drafted pact is a key source of tension between Russia and the Western security alliance.

The July 14 presidential decree set a 150-day deadline for the West to ratify the treaty. Meanwhile, Russia has pledged to honor all its commitments under the treaty until the moratorium comes into effect in mid-December.