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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Duma Ratifies Treaty Allowing Military Exercises With NATO

The State Duma on Wednesday endorsed a key treaty on joint military exercises with NATO that streamlines the organization of drills and defines the status of foreign troops during training -- an issue that has hampered such events in the past.

Deputies voted 328-90 with no abstentions to ratify the 1995 agreement among members of the Partnership for Peace program, a cooperation agreement between the alliance and former Soviet militaries. Russia signed the agreement in 2005.

The treaty now goes to the Federation Council, where it must be approved to be ratified.

The agreement, which was introduced to the parliament by the Kremlin, eases procedures for countries to send troops, weapons and other equipment to states hosting the exercises and formalizes their status there. According to the document, foreign troops would fall under the jurisdiction of the host state except in cases when a direct attack against its personnel or property is made.

Russia's failure to ratify the treaty has led to the cancellations of drills, including when it pulled out of exercises with the United States in Nizhny Novgorod last fall.

Konstanin Kosachyov, chairman of the Duma's International Affairs Committee, said that while cooperation with NATO was necessary, ratification of the treaty did not mean Russia's concerns about the alliance had been allayed.

"Ratification of the present agreement doesn't annul or correct our negative assessment of certain NATO activities," Kosachyov said.

Vladimir Zhirinovsky, head of the Liberal Democratic Party, criticized the agreement, saying it "opens our borders for a free pass of NATO's troops wearing military uniform in any direction with any goals."

Zhirinovsky speculated that ratifying it was the Kremlin's attempt to curry favor with the West to silence growing criticism of Russia's democratic record ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections.