A Russian general says Moscow has destroyed 95 percent of its chemical weapons stockpile, a milestone, to be sure, if it's true. The Soviet Union had developed the world's largest chemical-warfare infrastructure, according to experts, and Russia inherited most of it. Colonel-General Valery Kapashin, head of Russia's Federal Directorate on Safe Storage and Destruction of Chemical Weapons, told Interfax on September 14 that Russia had disposed of "more than 37,950 (metric) tons" of chemical-weapons material.
That figure is likely accurate, a chemical-weapons expert told Polygraph.info. John Hart of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) says the destruction of chemical weapons is tightly monitored by international experts. He said the Russian figures were likely to be confirmed later this year when technical experts report to the executive council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the body overseeing the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), a multilateral treaty that bans chemical weapons and requires their destruction within a specific period of time.
"OPCW inspectors are always present at all chemical-weapon destruction facilities when operations are underway. The OPCW also uses video monitoring and carries out tagging and inventory work at these facilities," Hart told Polygraph.info in an email.
The OPCW’s technical secretarial will report to the watchdog’s executive council on the status of Russia’s destruction later this year, Hart added. "This almost certainly will confirm the 95-percent destruction figure provided by Russia," he said.
Confirmed data show Russia is already very close to the 95-percent figure. In April, the OPCW reported that Russia had destroyed 93 percent of its chemical-weapons stockpile.
As a result of this progress, the OPCW noted that Russia had shut down six of seven chemical-weapons destruction facilities. Only the site at Kizner in Russia's Udmurt Republic is now operating, and it is expected to continue to do so until the task of destroying the last of Russia's chemical-weapons stockpiles is estimated to be completed by December 2020.
The Soviet Union’s chemical-weapons program produced most types of known chemical-warfare agents in immense quantities, and developed the world's largest chemical-warfare infrastructure. At its height, this infrastructure involved four research facilities, two test facilities, and eight storage facilities.
When the CWC came into force in 1997, Russia declared that it possessed approximately 40,000 metric tons of chemical agents, the largest amount in the world.