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Russia Touts Progress in Chem-Weapon Disposal

Russia on Wednesday said it had destroyed slightly more than 60 percent of its 40,000-metric-ton stockpile of chemical warfare materials, ITAR-Tass reported (see GSN, March 14).

In excess of 24,157 metric tons of chemical agents have been eliminated to date, according to Mikhail Babich, chairman of the State Commission on Chemical Disarmament.

"We are taking maximum effort to complete this process within the shortest time possible," said Babich, who met with top officials from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the organization dedicated to monitoring compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention.

The accord required member nations by 2007 to eliminate arsenals of banned materials such as mustard blister agent and the nerve agents VX and sarin. Several states received deadline extensions, with Russia and the United States being given five extra years to finish off their stockpiles.

Moscow and Washington have both acknowledged that they cannot meet the extended deadline (ITAR-Tass, March 21).

"We needed additional time, and an agreement has been reached that we shall complete this process by late 2015," Interfax quoted Russian Federation Council Defense and Security Committee head Viktor Ozerov as saying on Wednesday.

"We are increasing the capacities of the current disposal facilities, completing the construction of the last such enterprise as planned, and searching for additional funding and resources," Ozerov said.

The United States expects to complete chemical demilitarization operations in 2021 (see GSN, March 14).

Member states to The Hague, Netherlands-based nonproliferation organization in December decided against penalizing Russia, the United States and Libya for their anticipated failure to keep to the April 2012 deadline (see GSN, Dec. 1, 2011). The three nations instead are subject to a regime of increased reporting and transparency regarding their disposal programs (Interfax, March 21).

The OPCW delegation that traveled to Russia this week included the organization's director general, Ahmet Üzümcü, and representatives of its Executive Council of member states.

The team made a visit to a destruction facility being built at Kizner in Udmurtia, according to an OPCW release. Two Russian chemical weapons disposal plants have already finished operations, while work continues at another four sites.

“We are very pleased to commend the Russian government for its continuing strong commitment to the convention, and to have this timely opportunity to review the progress it is making toward the elimination of Russia’s remaining chemical weapons,” Executive Council Chairman Peter Goosens said in provided comments (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons release, March 22).

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