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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Team Inspects Missile Sites

U.S. military inspectors on Friday visited a Russian nuclear missile facility northeast of Moscow, in the first surprise inspection under the START I nuclear disarmament treaty, a U.S. official said.

"This is the first visit by a U.S. inspection team and the first [surprise] inspection of a nuclear missile site," a U.S. Embassy spokesman said.

He said one of three teams of 10 inspectors was at Kostroma, 200 kilometers northeast of Moscow, a site for SS-24 strategic missiles, among the most sophisticated in the former Soviet arsenal. They arrived in Russia on Wednesday.

Under the START I treaty, which came into effect in December after a long delay, inspectors must give 24-hours notice of arrival in the country. The host country must then take inspectors to a site within nine hours of a request.

The U.S. spokesman declined to say where the other two teams of inspectors were, but said all 55 missile sites in Russia would be visited within the next 120 days.

Russian inspectors arrive in San Francisco on Saturday to start inspections of U.S. facilities, the spokesman said.

The first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty plans to reduce the combined total of U.S. and former Soviet nuclear warheads to 12,000 by the end of the year 2001, from a Cold War high of 21,000.

Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus have agreed to transport all of their former Soviet nuclear weapons to Russia or destroy them, leaving Washington and Moscow with the world's biggest nuclear arsenals.

The START II treaty, still to be ratified, will cut the combined arsenals by another 5,000 by 2003, leaving Russia and the United States with a maximum of 3,500 warheads each.

U.S. officials said in December that Moscow and Washington planned to press ahead with a new third round of strategic talks, known as START III, following the entry into force of START I.

The original START treaty was signed in July 1991.