Russia Approves New Chemical Weapons Destruction Plan

Article excerpt

RUSSIAN PRIME MINISTER Mikhail Kasyanov approved a resolution July 5 to overhaul Moscow's existing 1996 plan to destroy its chemical weapons. The new scheme would require an extension of the Chemical Weapons Convention's (CWC) deadlines but could reduce demilitarization costs by 30-50 percent.

Kasyanov approved the resolution after it was initially reviewed by several government agencies in mid-June and subsequently modified by the Russian Munitions Agency (RMA), the civilian body heading chemical weapons destruction. According to an RMA official, the Russian government does not need to take further action for the plan to come into force.

Under its new plan, Russia would finish destroying its chemical weapons stockpile by 2012, missing the final convention deadline in 2007, by which member states must have completely eliminated their chemical weapons arsenals. This schedule would force Moscow to seek approval from CWC's oversight body, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), to take advantage of a CWC provision that allows extension of the deadline by up to five years. Moscow will "most likely" submit its new plan this fall to the OPCW, the RMA official said.

The plan's destruction schedule also misses all intermediate convention deadlines for destroying certain percentages of Russia's "Category 1" (the highest "risk" category) chemical weapons. Russia missed the first intermediate CWC deadline in April 2000 for destroying these weapons, which the OPCW extended by two years.

Russia had previously planned to build seven facilities to eliminate its chemical weapons, one at each of its chemical weapons storage locations. To save money, the new plan will scale back the number of destruction facilities to three, which will be located at Gorny, Shchuch'ye, and Kambarka, the official said.

Moscow plans to operate the Gorny facility from 2002 to 2005 and the Shchuch'ye and Kambarka sites from 2005 to 2011. Rather than construct a demilitarization facility at the Kizner storage site, under the new resolution Russia will transport weapons stored at Kizner to Shchuch'ye for destruction before 2012. …