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Global Green USA Welcomes Start-Up of New Russian Chemical Weapons Destruction Facility – Urges Safety and Transparency, and Renewed U.S. Support

Washington, DC - June 12, 2008 - Global Green USA, the U.S. affiliate of Mikhail Gorbachev’s Green Cross International, welcomes the official opening of Russia’s fourth major facility for the destruction of its chemical weapons arsenal and urges safety and transparency as destruction gets underway. The facility, located near Leonidovka in the Penza Oblast (350 miles SE of Moscow), holds 6,885 metric tons of VX, sarin, and soman nerve agents, about 17% of Russia’s declared chemical weapons stockpile.

Dr. Paul Walker, Legacy Program Director at Global Green USA, said: “Global Green USA congratulates the Russian Federation on neutralizing over 10,500 tons of deadly chemical agents over the past five years – about 25% of the declared Russian stockpile. The start-up of a fourth destruction facility this month will now help Russia to accelerate their CW stockpile destruction and potentially meet the April 2012 deadline of the Chemical Weapons Convention for complete stockpile elimination. However, deadlines must not trump safety and protection of public health, and we urge Russia to be extremely cautious and transparent as they move forward with this dangerous process.”

The Leonidovka facility is the second to be largely funded by the Russian government. The official opening is scheduled for June 16, 2008 and will be attended by the Director-General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Ambassador Rogelio Pfirter, in The Hague. The Leonidovka ceremony follows by 21 months the opening of its first nerve agent destruction facility in Maradikovsky in the Kirov Oblast on September 8, 2006. Two additional CW destruction facilities for older chemical agents – lewisite and mustard – were largely funded by Germany and opened in Gorny in the Saratov Oblast in December 2002 and in Kambarka in the Udmurt Republic in March 2006. Two more destruction facilities in Pochep in the Bryansk Oblast and Shchuch’ye in the Kurgan Oblast may also open later this year or next, while the seventh CW stockpile in Kizner in the Udmurt Republic is scheduled to begin destruction in late 2009 or 2010.

According to Global Green USA calculations, in order to meet the April 2012 CWC final deadline, Russia must destroy some 30,000 metric tons of agent (about 650 metric tons per month) – the remaining 75% of its CW stockpile – over the next 46 months. This is a very ambitious goal, especially if compared to prior U.S. and Russian rates of CW agent destruction. Russia may only achieve this goal if no accidents or technical problems emerge in the process and if the second-stage treatment of the toxic waste is completed.

Russia has declared seven major CW stockpiles holding some 40,000 tons of deadly agents in millions of bombs, warheads, storage tanks, and artillery shells. While Russia has begun construction of destruction facilities at the three remaining CW stockpiles at Pochep, Shchuch’ye, and Kizner, only the Shchuch’ye facility is over 50% built today. General Viktor Kholstov, director of the Russian CW destruction program, has promised, however, that all facilities will be operating by 2009.

Walker also emphasized the critical importance of ongoing international support for Russia’s nonproliferation and destruction effort. “The G-8 Global Partnership has pledged support of some $2 billion for Russia’s $7-8 billion CW demilitarization program,” Walker said, “but the Bush Administration has unfortunately refused additional funds under its Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR or Nunn-Lugar) program for the past two years, while other countries such as Italy and France have not fulfilled their financial pledges. This international partnership, established at Kananaskis, Canada in 2002, remains critically important to helping Russia secure its chemical weapons stockpiles and destroy them in a timely and safe manner.”

The Legacy Program, an international effort of Global Green USA, Green Cross Switzerland, and Green Cross Russia, has been actively involved in US, Russian, and global chemical weapons destruction for over a decade on the ground as well as at the policy level. It provides public information and outreach and facilitates dialogue among all stakeholders through its 11 public outreach offices in Russia serving local chemical weapons stockpile communities, through yearly large national conferences in Moscow and Washington, DC, and through participation at other international meetings.

Russia is one of six declared chemical weapons possessor states and has declared the largest stockpile. The United States has declared 31,500 tons and has completed destruction of about 50% over the past 18 years. Albania, possessing the smallest stockpile of 16 tons, completed destruction in 2007. Both India and South Korea, with stockpiles of some 1,000 tons or more each, will likely complete destruction in the coming year. Libya, the sixth possessor state with 23 tons of chemical agents, has not yet begun its agent destruction program.

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