Putin issues ominous warning on rising nuclear war threat

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a chilling warning Thursday about the rising threat of a nuclear war, putting the blame squarely on the U.S., which he accused of irresponsibly pulling out of arms control treaties.

Speaking at his annual news conference, Putin warned that “it could lead to the destruction of civilization as a whole and maybe even our planet.”

He pointed at Washington’s intention to walk away from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF, and its reluctance to negotiate the extension of the 2010 New START agreement, which expires in 2021 unless the two countries agree to extend it. “We are witnessing the breakup of the arms control system,” he said.

Moscow and Washington have been at loggerheads over the INF, which bans an entire class of weapons — all nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles of intermediate range. U.S. officials say Washington’s withdrawal from the pact was prompted by Russian violations of the treaty, which Moscow vehemently denies.

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