Russia opens new facility to dispose of chemical weapons

June 17th, 2008 - 9:56 pm ICT by IANS  

Moscow, June 17 (DPA) Russia opened a new centre Tuesday to speed the dismantling of its chemical weapons arsenal in an effort to abolish its massive stockpiles by 2012. The plant in the Penza region, about 550 km southeast of Moscow, is the sixth built in the last ten years to neutralize Russia’s chemical weapons store, the largest in the world.

As part of a series of non-proliferation agreements after the end of the Cold War, Russia and its one time foe the US agreed to destroy all their stockpiles.

In 1997, when the Chemical Weapons Convention entered into force, both nations held near 64,000 tonnes of toxic agents including nerve gas, a mere drop of which is deadly.

The new facility is the site of about 17 percent of Russia’s declared stores or 6,885 tonnes of VX, somoa and sarin nerve gases.

The US has cleared over 50 percent of its weapons stores, but Russia lags behind with 73 percent of its stockpile still intact, the Prague-based chemical watchdog, the OPCW, said Tuesday.

Washington has generously financed Russia’s chemical destruction efforts driven by environmental worries and a fear that poorly guarded stockpiles could be stolen.

“Eleven countries have not signed the convention including countries in the Middle East, North Korea and Myamar … We are anxious over the possibility of chemical weapons being used for terrorist purposes,” head of the OPCW Rogeilio Phirter was quoted by news agency Itar-tass as saying Tuesday.

Japanese doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo released sarin on the Tokyo underground in 1995, killing 12 people and providing a panic-inducing example of the deadliness of such agents.

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