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News Review Special Edition

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International Developments, November 15, 2002 - February 1, 2003

Russia Begins CW Stockpile Destruction

On December 24, a short statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry announced the belated commencement of Russia's chemical weapons (CW) destruction programme: "The first Russian plant for the destruction of chemical weapons began to operate at Gorny, Saratov region, on December 19. It is expected to soon liquidate 1 percent of Russia's stockpile of chemical weapons. This event is one more weighty confirmation of Russia's adherence to the fulfillment of its international obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention, first and foremost the complete and early destruction of such weapons. The government of the Russian Federation had taken the necessary steps for the priority financing and technical support of the construction of this important facility. The Russian side is sincerely grateful to the foreign partners - in the first place Germany, as well as the European Union and the Netherlands - for the technical assistance rendered at Gorny. There is good reason to extend this experience to the realisation of international cooperation under the program adopted at the G-8 Summit in Kananaskis in 2002 for the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction. We hope for as fruitful [an example of] international cooperation in the future during the construction of new chemical disarmament facilities in Kambarka and Shchuchye."

On December 30, Alexander Kharichev, Deputy Chairman of the Governmental Commission for Chemical Disarmament, told the ITAR-Tass news agency that 10 tons of Russia's immense 40,000-ton CW stockpile had been destroyed at the Gorny plant in the first few weeks of operation. Between 800-1,500 kilograms of mustard gas was currently being eliminated at the facility, Kharichev added, noting that the rate of disposal was set for a steep acceleration: "The quantity of destroyed chemical substances will significantly increase after the tuning of equipment and choice of optimal regimens... Russia will destroy 400 tons [1 percent] of [its] chemical weapons by April 2003, thereby meeting its international obligations."

In fact, under the standard terms of the CWC, all states parties are obliged to eliminate their stockpiles ten years after the entry into force of the treaty in April 1997, with the first 1 percent to be destroyed by April 2000. Russia has, however, exercised its entitlement to request a five-year extension of the deadline. If confirmed by CWC states parties, the destruction schedule will now be: 1 percent by April 2003; 20 percent by April 2007; 45 percent by April 2009; 100 percent by April 2012.

While conceding the role of significant internal administrative, management and budget shortcomings in its CW-destruction efforts, Russia is also sharply critical of delays and deficiencies in international support. On November 20, referring mainly but not solely to Washington, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Mamedov complained: "A number of western countries that promised additional funding unfortunately later did not fulfil their promises, or tied the allotment of funds to political conditions that were for us absolutely unacceptable... It's not charity [to help us destroy these weapons], but the fight against a common danger..." On December 4, Zinovy Pak, head of Russia's Chemical Munitions Agency, complained of one 'political condition' in particular - a US demand that its inspectors be allowed to visit Russian facilities within 24 hours of giving notice. In an interview published in the Rossiiskya Gazeta newspaper, Pak stated that "they don't make such demands even on Iraq".

As reported in recent issues, US Congressional funding, under the auspices of the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) programme, has been suspended due to concerns, angrily denied, that Russia's stockpile declaration is incomplete, and doubts surrounding the much-revised CW-destruction programme. On December 23, Pak said simply that "to promise and not give is not aid - it is an obstacle." On January 14 - see above - President Bush finally released the frozen CTR funding, including over $150 million to help build Russia's major CW-destruction facility at Shchuchye.

On December 25, Pak expressed disappointment at his own government for allotting only $174 million (5.4 billion roubles) for CW destruction in 2003. Pak lamented: "The sum is almost the same as it was in 2002... We are certainly not satisfied with the sum, for we have to start construction of the main scrapping facilities for poisonous gases in Shchuchye ...and Kambarka..."

Visiting Moscow on November 25, Canadian Foreign Minister Bill Graham announced that his country would be contributing an initial "modest contribution" of $5 million to Russia's CW-destruction programme, with more substantial funding to follow. Graham noted: "The signing of the agreement goes far beyond the amount of money involved, because it clearly indicates that we have arrived at a legal arrangement [with] which we are satisfied."

In Warsaw on December 17, Russia and Poland signed an Agreement on Cooperation in the Area of Chemical Weapons Destruction. According to a December 25 Russian Foreign Ministry statement, in "the first stage of cooperation the Polish side has allocated 400,000 zloty for the performance of joint works with the Russian Federation... Aside from rendering financial assistance, the Agreement provides for the participation of Polish scientists and specialists in the destruction of Russia's stockpiles of chemical weapons." The statement concludes: "We regard this as a graphic example of concrete international cooperation with states which are not part of the G-8 in carrying out the program adopted at the Summit in Kananaskis..."

Note: on January 21, former Russian Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko, the Chair of the State Commission on Chemical Disarmament, told reporters that the Gorny facility had so far destroyed 50 tons of the stockpile, apparently remaining on course for the 1 percent destruction deadline.

Related material on Acronym website:

Reports: Russian diplomat criticizes West for not providing funds to destroy chemical weapons, Associated Press, November 20; Canada signs agreements with Russian Federation, Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade News Release, No. 156 (2002), November 25; Canada pledges to provide assistance for Russian chemical disarmament, Associated Press, November 25; Top official criticizes US conditions for assisting Russia's chemical disarmament efforts, Associated Press, December 4; Top Russian disarmament official cites progress in destroying chemical weapons, Associated Press, December 23; On the start of the operation of Russia's first plant for the destruction of chemical weapons, Russian Foreign Ministry Statement, Document 2659-24-12-2002, December 24; Russia to spend 5.4 billion rubles (US$174 million) on destruction of chemical weapons in 2003, Associated Press, December 25; On the signing by Russia and Polish governments of an agreement on cooperation in the area of chemical weapons destruction, Russian Foreign Ministry Statement, Document 2669-25-12-2002, December 25; Russia - ten tons of chemical weapons destroyed in 2002, Global Security Newswire, January 2; Bush frees cash to secure Soviet arms, USA Today, January 14; Bush releases frozen Shchuchye funding, Global Security Newswire, January 14; Report - Russia destroys nearly 50 metric tons (55 short tons) of chemical weapons, Associated Press, January 21.

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© 2002 The Acronym Institute.