Moscow (AFP) – President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday 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.
The world’s global chemical weapons watchdog praised the step as a “major milestone”, ridding Russia of one of the last vestiges of the Cold War.
“Today the last chemical ammunition from Russia’s chemical weapon stockpile will be destroyed,” Putin said in televised remarks.
“This is truly a historic event, taking into account the huge amount we inherited from Soviet times that was enough — as experts believed — to destroy all living things several times over.
“This is a huge step towards making the modern world more balanced and safe.”
The last of the Russian arsenal was destroyed at the Kizner chemical weapons destruction facility in the Udmurt region.
Six other destruction facilities had completed their work and were closed between 2005 and 2015.
The Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), praised Russia for sticking to its international obligations.
“The completion of the verified destruction of Russia’s chemical weapons programme is a major milestone in the achievement of the goals of the Chemical Weapons Convention,” said Ahmet Uzumcu, head of the global watchdog.
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.
Washington said it would complete its destruction of the weapons by 2023.
According to the OPCW, the United States is now the last member state of the Convention on Chemical Weapons to have declared that it still possesses chemical weapons.