Arms pact clears first hurdle in Russia

Medvedev hails Obama for treatys Senate approval

The Kremlin-controlled State Duma voted 350-58 to approve the New START treaty in the first of three required readings. The legislators said they would proceed further after returning from the New Year’s vacation that lasts until January 11.

Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the State Duma’s foreign affairs committee, said the full ratification could only happen next month “at the earliest.”

The New START treaty, which was ratified on Wednesday by the US Senate, would limit each country’s strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550, down from the current ceiling of 2,200. It also would re-establish a system for monitoring and verification, which ended last year with the expiration of a previous arms control deal.

The pact is a centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s efforts to “reset” ties with Russia. In a phone conversation on Thursday, President Dmitry Medvedev congratulated Obama’s on the Senate’s approval of the treaty, which the two leaders hailed as a historic event for both countries and for US-Russia relations, according to a statement from the White House.

Speaking in a live interview with top Russian TV stations on Friday, Medvedev praised the treaty as a “cornerstone of stability both on the European continent and the entire world for the next decades,” adding he was happy to see the Russian parliament moving ahead to ratify it. He credited Obama for securing the pact’s ratification.

“He did a great job, succeeding in his push for the ratification of this very important document, the New START in quite difficult conditions,” Medvedev said. “I told him: Barack, you have a rest now.”

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