Although it voiced support for the idea of destroying all chemical weapons, the Russian Duma on April 25 decided to postpone until autumn ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). This means that Russia will not be eligible to attend the founding meeting of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) that will meet in The Hague soon after the convention enters into force tomorrow, nor will it be able initially to participate in any of the convention’s activities. The Duma members evidently hoped that their expressed good intentions might be enough. In a statement addressed to the other CWC signatories, they asked to be represented in the executive bodies of the OPCW so that there might be "due participation of Russia in drafting and adopting key decisions." The Duma members also noted that the ratification process had been started, and said it should be finished "in the autumn of this year provided that necessary conditions are created for this." The address suggested what some of these conditions might be: that Russia be given more than the mandated 10 years to destroy its stockpile, that it not have to pay the costs of verifying the destruction, and that it receive more foreign aid to pay for the destruction. (Interfax, Itar-Tass, April 25)
U.S. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said that the U.S. was "extremely disappointed" with the Duma’s inaction. The plea for representation without ratification is likely to fall on deaf ears. However, Ian Kenyon, head of the CWC’s Preparatory Commission, said in The Hague that he was sure Russia would not be kept off the convention’s Executive Council for long — once it had ratified the convention. (Reuter, AP, April 25)
As if to offset the bad news with some good, the Duma on April 25 did override the Federation Council’s earlier veto of a bill establishing the legislative basis for destroying Russia’s chemical stockpile. There was also a flurry of positive announcements from others. The deputy commander of the chemical troops, Lt. Gen. Viktor Kholstov, declared that Russia’s 40,000 metric tons of chemical agents and munitions were safely stored and guarded. The head of a government inter-departmental working group on chemical disarmament announced that Russia had developed "unique technologies" to neutralize the more than 300,000 tons of German chemical weapons dumped in the Baltic. And a company in Saratov announced that it had developed a microwave emission technology to destroy nerve agents. (Itar-Tass, RIA Novosti, April 25)
Russian Government Agrees on New Tax Code; Revised Budget.