MOSCOW, Russia — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday announced that Russia would destroy its last chemical weapons, hailing the move as a “historic event” and accusing the United States of not following suit.
“Today the last chemical ammunition from Russia’s chemical weapon stockpile will be destroyed,” Putin said in televised remarks.
“This is truly a historic event, taking into account the huge amount we inherited from Soviet times that was enough — as experts believed — to destroy all living things many times over,” he added. “This is a huge step towards making the modern world more balanced and safe.”
The Russian president also used the speech to needle Washington, saying the United States was not carrying out its international duties in full.
The US “unfortunately is not carrying out its obligations when it comes to the time frame of destroying chemical weapons — they pushed back the liquidation time frame already three times,” Putin was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.
Putin said Washington had postponed its plans to destroy its chemical weapons citing insufficient funds, which he said “looked a little bit strange.”
“Well okay, we expect the United States to carry out all of its obligations it has taken upon itself as part of international agreements just like other countries do,” he added.
Russia and the United States amassed huge stocks of chemical weapons during the Cold War, but had agreed to destroy them after joining the 1997 convention by April 2012.
However, both countries said they needed more time, with Washington saying it would complete destruction by 2023.
The world’s global chemical weapons watchdog hailed the destruction of the weapons as a “major milestone.”
“The completion of the verified destruction of Russia’s chemical weapons programme is a major milestone in the achievement of the goals of the Chemical Weapons Convention,” said Ahmet Uzumcu, head of the Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
He also praised Russian officials for “their professionalism and dedication,” adding experts from the Nobel Peace Prize-wining organization had “verified the destruction.”
The last of the Russian arsenal was “destroyed at the Kizner chemical weapons destruction facility in the Udmurt Republic,” the OPCW said.
Six other destruction facilities had completed their work and were closed between 2005 and 2015.
Some 96 percent of all the world’s declared stockpile of chemical weapons have now been destroyed, the OPCW added.