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Russia favors adoption of protocol to bioweapons convention — delegation chief

Russia also suggests setting up mobile medical and biological squads as part of the BTWC, tasked with timely assisting the member states in their "response to any infection outbreak"

GENEVA, August 17. /TASS/. Russia favors the adoption of a legally binding protocol to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) with an effective mechanism of compliance verification, a high-ranking Russian diplomat said on Thursday.

"Together with the vast majority of BTWC signatories, we continue to press for the resumption of work and for the eventual adoption of a universal, all-encompassing, legally binding protocol to the Convention, with an effective verification mechanism," said Konstantin Vorontsov, the deputy director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Nonproliferation and Arms Control Department.

Vorontsov heads the Russian delegation to the Working Group on the strengthening of the Convention, taking place in Geneva between August 7 and 18.

"In our view, the protocol, if adopted, could remove all problems, irritants and doubts, related to the question of whether the signatories are fulfilling their obligations under this international agreement in good faith," he continued.

The diplomat recalled that in 1997, Cuba "came up with serious claims about US activities related to the dengue fever virus."

"At present, the majority of states [present] on the Convention’s platform are also raising justified questions [about verification mechanisms]," Vorontsov continued.

"In this context, Russia and many other countries underscore the importance of improving confidence-building measures within the Convention’s framework, including by [obliging] the member countries to add into their reports information about their military and biological activities conducted beyond national borders," the head of the Russian delegation said.

Russia also suggests setting up mobile medical and biological squads as part of the BTWC, tasked with timely assisting the member states in their "response to any infection outbreak."

The recent novel coronavirus pandemic has "clearly demonstrated the need for such instruments," Vorontsov said.

Another Russian proposal is to create a BTWC committee analyzing scientific achievements related to the convention and issuing recommendations about putting these discoveries into practice "efficiently and with the least possible risks."

"We also suggest engaging in a most serious effort to develop a mechanism of investigating possible violations within the Convention’s framework. In our opinion, the situation around military and biological activities of the United States in Ukraine falls precisely into this category and serves as a very illustrative argument in favor of developing a mechanism of this kind," the diplomat added.


Cooperation with BTWC signatories

In the Working Group on the strengthening of the Convention, created by the Ninth BTWC Review Conference in December 2022, Russia is working with all interested parties to ensure that "its priorities, interests and approaches to BTWC-related issues are taken into account."

The goal is to enable the adoption of measures reinforcing the Convention, guaranteeing that civilian biological problems are not abused for military goals and ensuring the signatories’ compliance with their commitments related to banning development, production and storage of biological agents and toxins for use as biological weapons, the diplomat said. In his words, these measures should be endorsed during the 2027 Tenth BTWC Review Conference "or earlier."

In his words, Russia is cooperating with developing nations "who are also extremely interested in strengthening the BTWC" in this regard.

"We are trying to coordinate our steps in this direction with our closest allies and partners from the CSTO [Collective Security Treaty Organization], the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States], BRICS [Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa] and the SCO [Shanghai Cooperation Organization] in order to come out as a united front promoting the interests of the vast majority of the Convention’s signatories," Vorontsov concluded.