Moscow: Russia said Tuesday it was suspending its participation in a consulting group on a conventional arms treaty for Europe, the latest sign of deep tensions with the West.
Russia had already suspended its participation in the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) in 2007. It had however continued to take part in the consulting group related to the treaty, which was signed in 1990.
Moscow remains a signatory to the treaty limiting conventional military equipment such as tanks, aircraft and artillery and seen as a cornerstone of security in post-Cold War Europe.
"The Russian Federation has decided to suspend its participation in meetings of the Joint Consultative Group from March 11, 2015," the Russian foreign ministry quoted a top diplomat, Anton Mazur, as saying.
"Thus, the suspension of the participation in the CFE treaty announced by Russia in 2007 has become complete," it quoted Mazur, the head of the Russian Delegation to the Vienna Negotiations on Military Security and Arms Control, as saying.
The Joint Consultative Group is a Vienna-based body handling issues relating to compliance with the treaty.
Mazur said Russia`s continued membership was expensive and no longer made sense since the West had been using it to urge Moscow to resume its participation in the agreement.
Moscow added however that it remained open to "further dialogue on control over conventional weapons in Europe if or when our partners become ready."
Belarus will represent Russia in the consulting group, the statement said.
Ties between Russia and the West have sunk to their lowest point since the end of the Cold War since the start of the Ukraine crisis last year.
"It`s just another way of slapping the West in the face," Peter Felstead, editor at IHS Jane`s Defence Weekly in London, said of the move.
"The treaty said you are only allowed to have only so much of certain type of equipment in certain regions and this stopped destabilising things like massing equipment on a border," he told AFP.
"Russian operations in Chechnya in the 1990s completely violated the treaty, and they`re contravening it by what they`re doing in eastern Ukraine and on the border now."