MOSCOW, Sept. 22 (UPI) -- The Russian Federation has destroyed 19,300 tons of Soviet-era chemical weapons stockpiles.
Minpromtorg head Viktor Kholstov presented a report on the ongoing chemical weapons elimination program to a meeting of the Federation Council Committee on Defense and Security, Komsomol'skaia Pravda reported.
Kholstov told committee members that the destroyed weapons represent 48.3 percent of Russia's remaining existing stockpiles, adding, "It means that we fully complied with the third stage of target dates for the destruction of stockpiles of chemical weapons. The main source of financing for the destruction of chemical weapons stockpiles -- is the federal budget."
Kholstov said that when the first stage of the destruction was completed April 29, 2003, the amount of destroyed ammunition was 400 tons, with an additional 8,000 tons eliminated up to April 2007. Under the third phase of the program, 18,000 tons, or 45 percent of all remaining stocks were to be destroyed.
"However, this task was completed last Nov. 25 and by Sept. 1 this year we have already destroyed 19.3 thousand tons of weapons," Kholstov added.
In the current year the Russian government has budgeted $645 million for the destruction of the weaponry.
Earlier this month representatives from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons visited the Pochep Chemical Weapons Destruction Facility, at Pochep, in Bryansk oblast to observe the destruction process first-hand. The delegation included Ambassador Jean-Francois Blarel, with a representative from each of the other regional groups, a representative from the United States and OPCW Director General Ahmet Uzumcu.
The Pochep chemical weapons destruction facility will destroy 7,498 tons of nerve agents stored in air-delivered chemical munitions, which represent 18.8 percent of the chemical weapons stockpile declared by the Russian Federation, with operations scheduled to begin shortly.
When the Soviet Union collapsed in December 1991 it held the world's largest stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons.
In 1997 the Russian Federation declared stockpiles of 39,967 tons of chemical weapons. These included blister agents Lewisite, mustard, Lewisite-mustard-mix (HL) and nerve agents Sarin, Soman, and VX. Viral agents weaponized by the Soviet Union included tularemia, epidemic typhus, Q fever, smallpox, plague, anthrax, Venezuelan equine encephalomyelitis, Glanders, brucellosis, Marburg, Ebola, AIDS, Junin virus (Argentinean hemorrhagic fever), Machupo virus (Bolivian hemorrhagic fever), yellow fever, Lassa fever, Japanese encephalitis and Russian spring-summer encephalitis.
Both Germany and Switzerland provided aid and technical assistance to the construction of the Pochep facility.