American and Ukrainian inspectors to conduct observation flight over Russia and Belarus

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Observations over the two countries territories are held within the framework of the Treaty on Open Skies

Within the framework of the Open Skies Treaty, American and Ukrainian military inspectors will be observing for four days the territory of Russia and Belarus from the air.

This information was given by Head of the Russian National Center for Nuclear Risk Reduction Sergey Ryzhkov.

“From 30 March to 4 April 2015 within the framework of the International Treaty on Open Skies, the US mission with the participation of Ukraine plans to conduct an observation flight on an American observation aircraft OC-135B over the territories of the member states – the Republic of Belarus and the Russian Federation,” Ryzhkov said.

According to him, during the flight according to the agreed route, Russian specialists on board the observation aircraft will monitor strict compliance with the agreed flight parameters and the use of the observation equipment that allows the Treaty.

The OC-135B observation aircraft belongs to the type of aircrafts not designed for the use of any weapons. “The aircraft and its observation equipment (aerial cameras) have been certified at the international level with the participation of Russian experts, which excludes the use of technological tools not stipulated by the Treaty on Open Skies,” summed Ryzhkov.

BRIEF INFORMATION

The Open Skies Treaty was signed in 1992, it involves 34 states. Observation flights are conducted over Russia, USA, Canada, European countries.

The main objectives of “open skies” are transparency development, assistance in monitoring implementation of agreements on arms control, enhancing opportunities for crisis prevention and crisis management in the framework of the OSCE and other international organizations.

US claims to Russia under Open Skies Treaty

Earlier, the US government repeatedly stated the alleged large concentration of Russian troops on the border with Ukraine. The Russian Defense Ministry refuted such claims, asking to give evidence. One of the ways to see the actual situation is to implement the Open Skies Treaty, under which member states can observe from the air one another’s territories.

On July 29 the US State Department issued a report on compliance with international agreements on arms control, non-proliferation and disarmament for 2013. The document, in particular, contained a number of claims to Russia in connection with alleged breaches by Russia under certain international treaties.

In US’ point of view, Russia restricts the airspace use for the Open Skies Treaty purposes. As an example, the State Department cites four cases: the airspace over Moscow, the Chechen Republic, a 10-km area along the Russian- Abkhazian and Russian-South Ossetian borders and over the exercise area “West 2013”.

Russian Foreign Ministry: Russia fulfills obligations on Open Skies

In response, the Russian Foreign Ministry reminded that observation flights should be carried out in accordance with national rules of airspace use.

Restrictions on aircraft passing over Moscow and Chechen prohibited zones were introduced for safety reasons, stated the Russian Foreign Ministry. In these areas only the flying height is limited. Technical capacities of flight participants allow observing any point of the Russian territory from such a height. As for restrictions near the borders with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Moscow reminded that observation flights should be conducted no closer than 10 km from the border of the non-member state. Within the framework of the joint Russian-Belarusian exercises “West-2013”, live firing takes place. Russia and Belarus had offered in advance alternative routes and flying heights, thereby fulfilling the Open Skies Treaty obligations.

Text and pictures by TASS