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    Senior Russian senator hits out at U.S. nuclear deterrence report

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    A senior Russian politician has expressed "surprise" and "indignation" at the contents of a report by an influential U.S. think tank that calls for "minimal nuclear deterrence."

    MOSCOW, April 16 (RIA Novosti) - A senior Russian politician has expressed "surprise" and "indignation" at the contents of a report by an influential U.S. think tank that calls for "minimal nuclear deterrence."

    The study by the Federation of American Scientists and Natural Resources Defense Council recommends a nuclear policy that would see Washington target nuclear missiles at major industrial objects rather than population centers.

    This, the authors said, would be the first step toward U.S. President Barack Obama's recently-stated goal of "a world without nuclear weapons."

    Vasily Likhachyov, deputy chairman of the Russian Federation Council's foreign affairs committee, said he was concerned by the nature of the report, calling its proposals "an infringement of the fundamental principles of international law."

    He pointed out that under an existing agreement, the U.S. and Russia did not target nuclear missiles at each other, something he said that Moscow "strictly adheres to."

    The U.S. report says that once the policy has been formulated, Obama should publicly announce the changed role for nuclear weapons and the new types of targets.

    The senator also said that the naming in the report of 12 potential targets - three oil refineries, three iron and steel works, two aluminum plants, one nickel plant, and three thermal electric power plants - demonstrated "disrespect for the sovereignty of the Russian Federation."

    The plants and factories named are operated by companies including Russia's Gazprom, Rosneft and RusAl, as well as Germany's E.On and Italy's Enel.

    The authors of the study claim that nuclear attacks with 300 kiloton warheads on the targets specified in the report, mainly located in Siberia and the Urals, would kill 659,031 people.

    However, Likhachyov questioned these figures, saying that "anyone who knows what a nuclear weapon is also understands that the effect of an atomic explosion spreads over tens and even hundreds of kilometers."

    He also said that the report failed to take into account nuclear weapons held by other countries, and that its proposals were potentially harmful for Russia-U.S. cooperation, as well as international efforts in the field of non-proliferation. The senator also stated that any major cuts by Russia and the U.S. in their respective nuclear arsenals would give Washington an advantage due to its greater missile defense capabilities.

    The Russian Foreign Ministry has yet to react to the report, although Likhachyov said that an announcement of a "minimal nature" was imminent.

    The Federation of American Scientists was formed in 1945 by scientists from the Manhattan Project, the group that developed the world's first atomic weapon.

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