Russia Opens CW Destruction Plant

Russia opened its first chemical weapons destruction plant in Gorny August 21 but does not plan to begin actually destroying weapons at the site until December.

Diplomats from Europe, the United States, and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons attended a ceremony opening the plant, which has been partially funded by international contributions.

Germany will have provided more than $39 million for the plant’s construction by the end of 2002, making it Germany’s largest nonproliferation project in Russia, according to the German embassy in Washington. The European Union has also provided almost $5.9 million.

Russia’s July 2001 chemical demilitarization plan calls for beginning operations at Gorny in 2002 and completing destruction of the weapons stored at the plant, mostly mustard and lewisite agents, by 2005. Under the plan, Russia would begin scrapping chemical weapons at two other facilities, Shchuch’ye and Kambarka, in 2005. (See ACT, September 2001.)

The Chemical Weapons Convention, to which Russia is a state-party, calls for member states to destroy their chemical weapons stockpiles by 2007, but the Russian plan indicates that Moscow will miss that deadline and not complete its chemical demilitarization until 2012. The convention allows for an extension of up to five years, and Russia has asked the OPCW, which oversees implementation of the CWC, to grant it extra time.

The United States has also said it will miss the 2007 deadline because of delays in its chemical weapon destruction program. (See ACT, November 2001.)