On the Road in Russia: Kizner Visit

bl_dec2011_russian_trip Green Cross/Global Green's Security and Sustainability team visited the Udmurt Republic, or Udmurtia, a Federal Republic of Russia located in the western part of the Middle Urals, December 7-9, 2011. Paul Walker, Vladimir Leonov, and I all flew from Moscow to Izhevsk, Udmurtia's capital, for a three-day visit.  The first day was taken up by a visit to Kizner, where we arrived after four hours driving through a blinding snow storm. Kizner is the site of a major Chemical Weapons Destruction (CWD) facility, which is still under construction. The second day, we visited the Green Cross office, the CWD laboratory, and other sites in Izhevsk, finishing with a local Udmurtian vaudeville show.

The Kizner chemical weapons stockpile is one of seven declared by Russia under auspices of the international Chemical Weapons Convention requiring complete, safe, and verified elimination. Russia declared 40,000 metric tons of chemical agents in 1997 and has destroyed about 56% of this -- about 22,400 metric tons -- since 2002. Kizner holds 5,745 metric tons of nerve and blister agents, and is one of the sites at which the Security and Sustainability Program has managed a local outreach office for the last several years.

All the local and regional officials stated that the Kizner CWD facility would not open until mid-2013, at the earliest, although some speculated that it could be earlier in 2013 with more funding. Some officials simply shrugged their shoulders, saying that a longer schedule would be fine in terms of local funding and jobs -- "the longer, the better."  All the officials and colleagues were very pleased that Green Cross/Global Green would continue with support for 2012 of the Public Outreach and Information Office (POIO) in Izhevsk. Russia has stated that the facility would operate through 2015, but some observers believe its schedule will slip beyond that year.

The Green Cross/Global Green delegation was shown the newly renovated school and the new medical clinic, both of which looked excellent from the outside, in Kizner. We also visited the regional environmental laboratory in Izhevsk, managed by German Frizorger, and were given a full tour. This was the first time, reportedly, that foreigners were provided access to the laboratory, the Udmurt Republic State Environmental Control and Monitoring Regional Center (SECMRC). We will all celebrate when both Russia, with almost 18,000 metric tons of chemical agents remaining, and the U.S., with more than 2,800 metric tons remaining, complete their stockpile destruction programs in the coming decade.