Putin issues ominous warning on rising nuclear war threat

Russia confirms US' withdrawal from INF treaty, says Moscow will retaliate if Washington threatens its...

Washington has invited the Russian leader to visit in 2019, but such a visit could prove controversial because U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Moscow meddled in the 2016 USA presidential election in favour of Mr Trump.

There was a growing tendency to underestimate the threat of nuclear war, the Russian leader said.

Putin also said the West was trying to hold back an increasingly powerful Russian Federation as he took aim at sanctions and "made-up" spy scandals, including the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, England.

"If, God forbid, something like that were to happen, it would lead to the end of all civilization and maybe also the planet", said Putin. It seems impossible or to be something not so important.

But though Putin criticized Washington, he made clear that he still hoped to meet Trump sometime soon, saying it was important the two leaders discussed issues such as arms control.

He pointed at Washington's intention to walk away from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and its reluctance to negotiate the extension of the 2010 New START agreement. US officials say Washington's withdrawal from the pact was prompted by Russian violations of the treaty, which Moscow vehemently denies.

When asked about Donald Trump's decision on Wednesday to begin withdrawing forces from Syria, Putin said he "generally" agreed with the US president's decision that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) had been defeated there. And they shouldn't squeak later about us gaining unilateral advantages. But we are not striving to have an advantage, we are striving to have a proper balance, ensure our security.

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Russian Federation says the missile's range puts it outside the treaty altogether and is not as long as Washington alleges, meaning that it is fully compliant with the INF. He dismissed claims of Russian interference overseas, from a nerve agent poisoning in Britain to an alleged effort to infiltrate the US National Rifle Association.

"They need an external threat to cement North Atlantic Treaty Organisation unity", Putin said, accusing the US and its allies of exploiting "phobias of the past" to achieve domestic political goals.

He, however, expressed a belief that "the humankind will have enough common sense and self-preservation not to drive the situation to extremes".

"We don't feel right now that such a step would be justified from either a political or a technical point of view", Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said in an interview with the Kommersant daily newspaper published on Wednesday. "They don't want to acknowledge his victory and do everything to delegitimize the president", Putin added.

Butina, 30, pleaded guilty last week to a conspiracy charge as part of a deal with the feds for trying to infiltrate conservative political groups in the United States. "These are great American heroes", Trump said. Russian President Vladimir Putin says leaving the treaty "would be a very unsafe step".

In more conciliatory language, Putin rallied to Trump's defense against his domestic opponents, warning that the Democrats' success in the midterm elections to the House of Representatives will lead to "new attacks" on the USA president.

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