Russia finished destroying 1 percent of its most dangerous chemical weapons April 26, according to Russia’s foreign ministry and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The event marked the first milestone of the country’s commitment under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) to destroy its stockpile. Russia, however, reached the road mark three years after its original deadline.
Under the 1997 treaty, Russia committed to destroy 1 percent of its Category 1—the most dangerous—chemical weapons within three years of the agreement’s entry into force. In October 2002, CWC member states granted Russia an extension on this deadline, as well as on its 20 percent destruction deadline. Destruction of all Russian chemical weapons was slated initially for 2007, but Moscow has requested that the CWC push back the final deadline to 2012. (See ACT, November 2002.)
Russia reached the 1 percent mark by destroying 400 tonnes of mustard gas at the Gorny facility in southern Russia. Sergei Kiriyenko, chairman of Russia’s Chemical Disarmament Commission, noted in remarks commemorating the event that the mustard gas destruction line would be temporarily shut down for maintenance, Interfax reported April 26. The line has now been halted, but mustard gas disposal will restart later this year.
Meanwhile, Russia is preparing to destroy lewisite, another blister agent stored at Gorny. According to a May 12 ITAR-TASS article, testing on the lewisite line commenced in mid-May with small amounts of the chemical in preparation for full-scale destruction, set to begin in June.
Russia plans to build two other facilities to help destroy Russia’s complete chemical weapons holdings, estimated at about 40,000 tonnes—the world’s largest stockpile.