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Russia destroys 77% of its chemical weapon stocks

THE HAGUE, December 16, (ITAR-TASS). Russia has destroyed 77 percent of its chemical weapon stocks, Vasily Titushkin, Deputy Permanent Representative of Russia to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), told ITAR-TASS.

Russia is now the only country with chemical weapons that destroys them on a regular basis. “The United States will resume full-scale work only at the end of 2015 and currently destroys chemical weapons from time to time and mainly those in critical condition,” Titushkin said.

“Libya also disposes of its chemical weapons from time to time for a number of reasons. Syria will start destroying its stocks and other chemical agents in 2014,” he added.

“Russia has been carrying out this work on a regular basis and consistently fulfilling its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention, strictly complying with safety requirements for people and the environment,” the official said. “Two facilities have already finished operation and four are still working. The seventh facility will be commissioned on December 19 in the presence of Deputy Director-General from the OPCW Technical Secretariat,” Titushkin said.

“As of November 30, Russia had destroyed 30,900 tonnes of combat toxic agents, which makes up 77 percent of all stocks. I hope we will go beyond 31,000 tonnes by the end of the year, and this will make up 77.6 percent of the total. Quantitatively, this is more than all the other states possessing chemical weapons have destroyed together,” he said.

“In the outgoing year the Russian Federation has destroyed almost 3,000 tonnes of sarin, soman and VX agents a month ahead of the schedule,” Valery Kapashin, Head of the Federal Department for Safe Storage and Disposal of Chemical Weapons told ITAR-TASS earlier.

Chemical weapons were destroyed at four plants in 2013: Maradykovsky, Leonidovka, Shchuchye, and Pochep in the Kirov, Penza, Kurgan, and Bryansk regions, respectively. The facilities at Gorny in the Saratov region and Kambarka in Udmurtia had disposed of all stockpiles earlier.

The last, seventh, Russian chemical weapons disposal facility in Kizner is under construction and its first phase is to be commissioned on December 19.

“Complete and speediest destruction of chemical stockpiles is a priority for the Russian Federation, but it was decided to commission facilities gradually to ensure the safety of people and the environment,” Kapashin said, adding that this approach had proved correct at both the facilities that had already finished their operation and those that were still in the process of disposing of chemical weapons.

The remaining facility in Kizner will be commissioned using the same pattern.

The Maradykovsky plant in the Kirov region has started destroying the last stockpiles of toxic agents. About 1,900 pieces of ammunition containing 13 tonnes of toxic agents have been stored at the plant since the middle of the 20th century.

Up to date, the Maradykovsky plant has destroyed more than 98 percent of chemical weapons. It uses specially designed equipment to destroy complex ammunition. Such equipment was first used about a year ago at another chemical weapon disposal facility in Leonidovka, Penza region in central Russia.

The remaining ammunition will be disposed of by the end of 2015. Once all stocks of chemical weapons have been disposed of, the plant will be converted to other uses.

Under the relevant federal programme, Russia has to dispose of all chemical weapons by December 31, 2015. During the first stage, 400 tonnes of poison substances were eliminated by April 29, 2003, which made up 1 percent of Russia's chemical weapons (40,000 tonnes). In the course of Phase Two, Russia disposed of 8,000 tonnes of chemical weapons.

The chemical weapons disposal plant in Gorny, Saratov region, was the first Russian facility to start disposing of toxic agents in December 2002. In 2005, it finished disposing of more than 1,143 tonnes of yperite, lewisite and their mixtures.

In 2010, the reaction masses left after the disposal of more than 130 tonnes of yperite were burnt. Fifty-five tonnes of solid and 9 tonnes of liquid waste remaining after the disposal of lewisite were recycled.

The authorities said the plant in Gorny would be decommissioned by 2017 and converted into a fully state-owned federal enterprise in order to ensure better state control over the use of products resulting from the recycling of toxic agents, keep employment in the area and generate tax revenues.

The facility will be put out of service in the next two years. It will take another three years to convert it to new uses. During this time, its employees will keep their jobs.

The bulk of the decommissioning work would be done by specialists from a company to be selected through a tender. Currently, three companies are seeking the contract.

The Pochep site in the Bryansk region stored over 7,500 tonnes of nerve gases and plaid a special role in the final stage of the federal chemical disarmament programme. The site contained almost 19 percent of Russia's war gases. All of them were disposed of within the period of time prescribed in the Hague Convention.

The facility in the village of Leonidovka is also involved in the implementation of the programme. Another facility is in the town of Shchuchye, Kurgan region.

The final stage of the programme envisions the destruction of 100 percent of chemical weapons by the end of 2015. The plants in the town of Pochep, Bryansk region, and the town of Kizner, Udmurtia, will take part in the implementation of this stage.

Russia declared 40,000 tonnes of chemical weapons were in its possessions at the time of accession to the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1997.