‘Chemical arms destroyed’
US not following suit: Putin
MOSCOW, Sept 28, (Agencies): Russia on Wednesday completed the task of destroying its huge, Cold War-era chemical weapons stockpiles, winning praise from an international chemical weapons watchdog.
Russian officials reported the destruction of the country’s last remaining artillery projectile filled with VX toxic agent to President Vladimir Putin. The work took place at the Kizner facility in the Urals, one of seven facilities built in Russia to destroy chemical weapons in an effort that has spanned two decades and cost billions of dollars.
Ahmet Uzumcu, director-general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, commended Russia for achieving a “major milestone” with the destruction of its chemical arsenals.
“I congratulate Russia and I commend all of their experts who were involved for their professionalism and dedication,” he said in a statement.
The OPCW oversees global efforts to eliminate stockpiles under the Chemical Weapons Convention that took effect in 1997. It says over 96 percent of the weapons declared by the convention’s 192 participants have been destroyed.
Putin noted that Russia wrapped up the destruction of its chemical weapons stockpiles ahead of schedule, adding that the effort underlined the nation’s commitment to nonproliferation efforts.
“It’s truly a historic event, given the huge size of the chemical arsenals inherited from Soviet times, big enough to entirely destroy life on Earth several times,” Putin said in a video call with officials in Kizner. “This is a huge step toward making the world of today more secure and balanced.”
Russia launched the program of dismantling its chemical weapons stockpiles when it was still reeling from post-Soviet economic meltdown in the 1990s. It relied on the US and other Western aid in the early phases of the program, but later came to fund the effort from its own coffers as the Russian economy rebounded.
Russia has spent more than 290 billion rubles (more than $5 billion) to destroy nearly the 40,000 metric tons of chemical weapons it possessed, Economics Minister Denis Manturov said, according to the state RIA Novosti news agency.
Earlier, Putin had announced that Russia was destroying its last chemical weapons, hailing the move as a “historic event” and accusing the United States of not following suit.
“Today the last chemical ammunition from Russia’s chemical weapon stockpile will be destroyed,” Putin said in televised remarks.
Putin also used the speech to needle Washington, saying the United States was not adhering to its international duties in full.
The US “unfortunately is not carrying out its obligations when it comes to the timeframe of destroying chemical weapons -- they pushed back the liquidation timeframe already three times,” Putin said.
The Russian leader said Washington had postponed its plans to destroy its chemical weapons citing insufficient funds, which he said “looked a little bit strange.”
“We expect the United States to carry out all of its obligations it has taken upon itself as part of international agreements just like other countries do,” Putin added.
Some 96 percent of all the world’s declared stockpile of chemical weapons have now been destroyed, the OPCW said.
Russia and the United States amassed huge stocks of chemical weapons during the Cold War, but had agreed to destroy them after joining the 1997 convention by April 2012.