MOSCOW, April 5 (RIA Novosti) – Russia may extend the deadline for complete destruction of its chemical weapons arsenal until 2020 as it lacks industrial capacity to finish the task on schedule, the Izvestia newspaper reported on Friday.
The relevant draft proposal is being prepared by the Trade Ministry and will be submitted to the upper chamber of the Russian parliament, the Federation Council, on April 16, the paper said. The final decision will be made by the Russian president after consultation with Russian lawmakers and experts.
Russia had destroyed about 25,000 metric tons of chemical weapons, or 62 percent of its 40,000-ton stockpile as of April 29, 2012 - the deadline set by the Chemical Weapons Convention for complete arsenal destruction.
Moscow for years said it would meet the deadline, but eventually postponed the completion until 2015. Now, even the new deadline seems to be unrealistic.
Alexander Grabovsky, an expert on chemical weapons disposal, told Izvestia that the delayed construction of the last chemical weapon destruction plant, located in Udmurtia, had hampered the implementation of the program.
“The facility is still not operational and its annual capacity will be about 1,600-1,800 tons, while the volume of stockpiles it has to destroy is over 5,000 tons,” Izvestia quoted Grabovsky as saying.
Russia signed the Chemical Weapons Convention banning the development, production, stockpiling, transfer and use of chemical arms in 1993, and ratified it in 1997. The Russian government has allocated 230 billion rubles ($7.18 billion) for the implementation of the program since then, and has built six chemical weapon destruction plants, including the Kambarka facility in the Republic of Udmurtia.
Russia is unlikely to face international sanctions for the delay in the implementation of the program because it is not the only country that will not be able to meet the announced deadlines.
The United States has postponed the deadline for destroying the remaining 2,000 metric tons of its 27,000-ton chemical weapons arsenal first until 2021 and then until 2023.
As of January 31, 2012, more than 50,000 metric tons of chemical weapons, or 73 percent of the global stockpile, had been destroyed.