November 19, 2017

Towards The World Free From Chemical Weapons: Russia Demonstrates Its Leadership

By the Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the Organisation for the Prohibition of the Chemical Weapons.

This year was marked by a significant success of Russia in the area of non-proliferation of the weapons of mass destruction and arms control: on September 27, 2017 the last chemical munitions remaining of all the previous Russian chemical arsenals were destroyed at the “Kizner” specialised facility in the region of Udmurtia. This is a truly milestone event. Our country has successfully fulfilled its key commitment under the Chemical Weapons Convention (or the CWC) – it has completely got rid of its chemical arsenal, which some time ago used to be the largest in the world. This means about 40 thousand tons of deadly chemicals that we inherited from the past.

Throughout the existence of the Russian chemical weapons destruction programme enormous amount of work has been done. Seven technologically advanced facilities were built in various regions of our country, unique domestic “know-how” has been developed, highly qualified staff has been trained. A great number of people worked tirelessly in Russia to achieve this goal: large teams of scientists, engineers, technicians and workers were occupied at those enterprises. It would not be an exaggeration to say that a whole new industry has been created solely for the purpose of destroying the chemical arsenal.

Leadership of the country paid the closest possible attention to the chemical weapons destruction programme, which had the status of a presidential one. More than 15 ministries and agencies of the Russian Federation have been involved in its implementation under the coordination and supervision of the CWC national authority – the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

Of course not everything developed smoothly. Difficulties emerged throughout the implementation process, mainly technical ones. (In particular, due to the sharp increase in the number of expired shells with a high risk of leaking, as well as difficult and expensive destruction of complex design munitions). Consequently, twice we had to extend the period of destruction of the accumulated chemical stockpiles. Nevertheless, Russia managed to come up with the solutions that in the end enabled to finish the process earlier than the official deadline registered in the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which envisaged the completion of the destruction no later than 2020.

 

The Ambassador of Russia, H.E. Alexander Shulgin.

The plan of infrastructure creation encompassed a step-by-step launch of the relevant entities. The last chemical facility, “Kizner” was put in operation in 2013. Before the early 2000s – at the time when our country suffered from serious economic challenges – we had to rely on the foreign technical assistance (the share of such assistance was about 10% of the total expenses on the programme). Hence, we would like to express our sincere gratitude to all who helped us back then: the donor states (Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Switzerland, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the USA), as well as the European Union.

It has to be emphasised that the chemical disarmament in Russia was implemented in strict accordance with the requirements of the environmental legislation. Enhancing environmental security was our top priority. It was achieved by means of thorough monitoring of the chemical destruction facilities and the adjacent area, including supervision over the health of the population and the facilities staff.

At all the stages of the programme great attention was given to well-being of the employees. Significant funds were allocated to create and maintain social infrastructure in the regions where the chemical facilities were located – schools, hospitals, kindergartens, stadiums were constructed. This allowed raising the level of life of the local population and providing the necessary human resources for the chemical disarmament sites.

Russia invested huge amounts of funds in the construction of the chemical weapons destruction facilities (more than 330 billion roubles in total). But at the moment we have a new topical and ambitious target ahead: find the way to use them for civil purposes after the completion of the programme and not only in the chemical industry. In particular, these high-tech complexes are to be engaged into the national economy as the basis for new investment projects that will also employ the existing staff after retraining. A set of projects has already been determined for each of the seven facilities to be converted.

By completing the destruction of its chemical arsenals this year, i.e. three years earlier than planned, Russia has confirmed its commitment to the international obligations. This event, as the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin stressed out in his welcoming speech to the participants of the ceremony at the “Kizner” chemical facility on September 27, has become “a huge step towards greater balance and security in the modern world”.

We hope that our success in the area of chemical disarmament will serve as an example for other CWC States Parties, which will act as devotedly and consistently as the Russian Federation in order to fulfil their obligations undertaken within the international treaties. Particularly, we expect the US (the second largest possessor of chemical weapons), which are to complete their destruction only in 2023, will make additional efforts in this direction. In that case we will move another step further towards the cherished goal – the world completely free from chemical weapons.

It is symbolic that the complete elimination of the Russian chemical arsenals happened in the year of the 20th anniversary of the CWC and OPCW, which in 2013 was awarded with a Nobel Peace Prize for its enormous efforts in freeing the humanity from the chemical weapons. Russia is grateful to the OPCW Technical Secretariat that assisted us over the whole period of the programme and contributed a lot to this uneasy struggle for our common chemical-free future that we are building for next generations.

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