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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 54, February 2001

Russia Set to Begin CW Destruction

On February 9, Russian officials announced that destruction of the country's vast chemical weapons stockpile - around 44,000 tons - was scheduled to begin "in the second half of the year," in the words of Alexander Shutiy, spokesperson for Zinovy Pak, the Defence Ministry's Munitions Agency. Shutiy gave no indication of costs or schedule.

The destruction will take place at the Shchuchye disposal facility in the Ural Mountains, and will initially concentrate on artillery shells containing phosgene. As Alexander Ivanov, a senior official at Zinovy Pak, conceded (February 9): "Destroying phosgene is relatively easy and cheap compared to more deadly chemical weapons. We would need American help to build more complex disposal facilities in Shchuchye."

Russia - which is also hoping to start work on a second disposal facility, at Gorny, in the Volga River region of Saratov, later this year - estimates that the total cost of destroying its stockpile will be between $4-5 billion. Under the terms of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), Russia should have destroyed the first 1% of its stocks, 440 tons, by April 2000, but it has been negotiating a new schedule, and appealing for outside funding, in discussions with fellow Convention members. Thus far, around $1.5 billion of financial assistance is reported to have pledged by the US and several EU states.

On February 6, Jose M. Bustani, the Director General of the Technical Secretariat of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), visited Moscow for discussions with Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Georgy Mamedov. According to a Russian Foreign Ministry statement, the "sides discussed a wide range of questions relating to the implementation" of the CWC. The statement continued: "Mamedov emphasised that Russia regards the CWC as an important factor of international security and stability... He expressed appreciation to Jose Bustani for his personal contribution to international financial and technical assistance in the implementation of the national programme for the destruction of chemical weapons in the Russian Federation." On February 7, after meeting with Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznyov, Bustani observed:

"CW dismantlement in Russia is a...problem for the Organization. Nowadays, we have some reasons for optimism. Russia has established specialised institutions and created conditions for implementation of the programme. I hope that there will be progress in allocating funds for Russia. For that purpose, the international community should [be able to] believe in Russia's commitment to CW dismantlement and be sure that this programme is backed by all political segments of the society. Russia should complete [the] elaboration of its CW destruction programme, which then should be carried out in accordance with the schedule."

Reports: Russian Foreign Ministry Statement, Document 203-06-02-2001, February 6; Speaker of the Duma met Director-General of the OPCW Technical Secretariat, State Duma Press Service, February 8 (quoted in 'The Duma and Arms Control', PIR Center Arms Control Letter, Moscow, February 2001); Russia to start destroying weapons, Associated Press, February 9.

© 2001 The Acronym Institute.