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– Frank von Hippel
Co-Director of Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University
Russia Begins 'Category 2' CW Destruction
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Russia recently took a step toward meeting its Chemical Weapons Convention commitments, beginning destruction of its "Category 2" chemical weapons, according to an Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) official.

Moscow had previously informed the OPCW, which oversees the convention's implementation, that it would begin destroying its "Category 2" weapons on April 18. These weapons are considered to pose a "significant" risk to the convention. The OPCW official confirmed that the destruction activities, conducted at the Shchuch'ye site, had begun in mid-April.

The official added that Russia also resumed the destruction of "Category 3" weapons—comprised of unfilled munitions, devices, and other equipment—at the Maradykovsky and Leonidovka sites. Moscow had destroyed 40,000 items at these sites last year, but it did so without the OPCW verifying their destruction. The organization has now begun to monitor these destruction activities.

Under the convention, Russia must destroy its entire stockpile of about 40,000 tons of chemical weapons by 2007, although the OPCW could extend this deadline by as much as five years. Russia was supposed to have started destroying its Category 2 and 3 weapons by December 1998 and is required to complete their destruction by April 29, 2002. It has not yet begun the destruction of its "Category 1" weapons, those that pose a "high" risk to the convention.