Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a law revoking Russia’s ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).
According to the French news agency AFP, the 1996 treaty outlawed all nuclear explosions, including direct tests of nuclear weapons, but it never entered into force because some key countries, including the United States and China, did not ratify it.
The West has accused Russia of reckless nuclear rhetoric since it invaded Ukraine last February.
Putin oversaw ballistic missile exercises last week, which Defence Minister Sergei Shoigov said was a drill for a “massive” retaliatory nuclear strike against an unknown enemy.
The Russian president also said last month that he was “not ready to say” whether Russia would directly conduct nuclear tests.
A bill to abrogate the deal was swiftly passed by Russia’s parliament last month.
During parliamentary hearings, State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said the move to cancel the deal was a response to America’s “jokes” and “uncivilised attitudes” towards nuclear weapons.
Although the treaty never entered into force, 178 countries, including nuclear powers France and Britain, ratified it, and it has symbolic importance.
Supporters say the treaty established an international norm against direct tests of nuclear weapons, but critics say the treaty’s effectiveness without ratification by major nuclear powers is unrealistic.
The Russian parliament ratified the Nuclear Test Ban agreement in June 2000, six months after Vladimir Putin became president.