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This article from The Guardian features a quote from Putin claiming that Russia destroyed all their chemical weapons:

“Secondly, Russia does not have such [nerve] agents. We destroyed all our chemical weapons under the supervision of international organisations and we did it first, unlike some of our partners who promised to do it, but unfortunately did not keep their promises.”

However, I was unable to confirm or refute this claim as it is not mentioned when or with whom Russia cooperated for this.

  • 4
    It may be important to note that the Chemical Weapons Convention mandates the destruction of chemical weapons stockpiles. Destroying every weapon and every agent was never fully expected. – Benjamin Mar 20 '18 at 10:53
  • @Benjamin That's not true. CWC prohibits the possession of chemical weapons. You're allowed to keep up to a tonne of Schedule 1 chemicals in total for research, but they're not allowed to be, e.g., in the form of artillery shells. – David Richerby Mar 21 '18 at 14:57
  • @DavidRicherby to a point, that's true. But there's nothing in the CWC that requires the destruction of munitions that are, say, lost and buried underground at a proving ground, for instance. – Benjamin Mar 21 '18 at 15:51
  • @Benjamin OK, sure, it prohibits knowing possession. But if as soon as you find those munitions, you know you have them, so they are prohibited and need to be destroyed. So it doesn't make any difference, except insofar as a country could believe it had destroyed all its chemical munitions and then find out that it hadn't. – David Richerby Mar 21 '18 at 17:10
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According to the Russian government, their country officially complied with the terms of the Chemical Weapons Convention on September 27, 2017.


According to broadcasts from Russian State Media, Russian President Vladimir Putin destroyed the last of Russia's chemical weapons stockpile that were banned by the Chemical Weapons Convention on September 27, 2017, in a highly publicized and choreographed event.

The New York Times

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia presided over the destruction of his country’s last declared chemical weapons on Wednesday

Newsweek

“We trust that Russia’s efforts on liquidating chemical weapons will serve as an example for other countries,” Putin concluded. He spoke as he hailed the “historic” closing of a chemical arms facility in Russia’s Udmurtia region—the last facility of its kind, according to Putin.

and Reuters

President Vladimir Putin said Russia was destroying its last supplies of chemical weapons on Wednesday, three years ahead of schedule, hailing the development as “an historic event”.

all independently published the story regarding the destruction of the last of the Russian military stockpile of chemical weapons.

The event was described as follows by the New York Times.

State television showed Mr. Putin ordering officials at a destruction center in the central Russian village of Kizner to dismantle the last shells containing lethal chemical agents. The green shells, each unscrewed by a machine in a sealed container, bore the words “Farewell, chemical weapons” painted in white in Russian.

Valery Kapashin, the head of the Russian agency responsible for the storage and destruction of chemical arms, told Mr. Putin by video link to the president’s country home outside Moscow: “Comrade commander-in-chief! The chemical weapons of the Russian Federation have now been entirely eliminated.”


The chemical weapons were destroyed as part of an international agreement between Russia and the United States. From the New York Times article above

Both Russia and the United States — which hold the world’s biggest stockpiles — were supposed to destroy all of their chemical weapons by 2012 under an international agreement, the Chemical Weapons Convention, that they each signed in 1993 and which went into force in 1997. The final deadline for the elimination of chemical weapons was initially set for 2007. But with neither of the two countries close to meeting that goal, the deadline was extended to 2012.

Neither Russia nor the United States met that new deadline either, although Mr. Putin boasted on Wednesday that Russia was three years ahead of a 2020 deadline it had set for itself.

The full text of the original agreement is available here.


A few things to note from the agreement, however.

  1. Countries party to the agreement are self reporting, and not done by inspectors searching the country for weapons. If a country does not declare a chemical weapon cache to inspectors then they do not know about it.

  2. Countries party to the agreement are allowed to manufacture small amounts of chemical weapons (100 grams) for "research, medical or pharmaceutical purposes"

  3. According to some, new chemical agents are not banned under the agreement and are allowed to be produced by countries party to the agreement.

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    The key point here is "declared". Under the CWC, states may produce up to 100g of anything without declaring it. Novichok was never declared to the OPCW anyway and, while 100g doesn't make for much of an arsenal, it's plenty enough for targeted assassinations. – David Richerby Mar 19 '18 at 17:28
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    Honestly, someone should make a different question regarding Novichok. OP didn't ask about it and yet the vast majority of responses to this question seem to be focusing on it. Maybe a question that asks if Novichok is covered under the CWC. – DenisS Mar 19 '18 at 20:15
  • Countries party to the agreement are self reporting Could it be any useless, then? – Eric Duminil Mar 20 '18 at 15:15
  • @EricDuminil If it was something the UN came up with, yes. – Ian Kemp Mar 20 '18 at 21:27
  • Countries party to the agreement are allowed to manufacture small amounts of chemical weapons (100 grams) for "research, medical or pharmaceutical purposes". Weapons are used for medical purposes now? – Mehrdad Mar 21 '18 at 11:25
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TL;DR:

  • there is a chance they didn't destroy "all" of their weapons, since the specific weapons being discussed were outside the purvue of Chemical Weapons Convention; and destruction mentioned was under CWC auspicies. In other words, the claim as carefully worded may even be technically true, while false in spirit of what it implies.

  • Even de jure, under CWC, there's no certain proof that they destroyed "all" of them. Proving a negative is nearly impossible; in this specific case.

    A solid evidence (if not proof) would be under CWC verification regime; but that regime is not a 100% guarantee.

  • There are circumstantial reasons to believe they weren't all destroyed (detailed at the links), but no explicit proof or solid evidence that they weren't (like a cache of these chemicals publicly uncovered in the middle of Russia, or post-Mirzayanov insider reports).

1. It's irrelevant.

The agent in question (code named Novichok) was explicitly developed to circumvent Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), under which auspices the weapons were destroyed.

As such, this agent (really a set of them) was not on the list of what was supposed to be destroyed.

Source: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/novichok-agent

In other words, the claim is misleading. The destruction "officially" wasn't of things that are being discussed now.

2. CWC does not cover "Research"

As such, relatively large (tens of tons) "research" quantities of "Novichok" type agent were outside CWC jurisdiction. They weren't big enough to warran military application.

Source: re-released Stimson Center report "Chemical Weapons Disarmament in Russia: Problems and Prospects.

H/tip: Arms Control Wonk

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    And Novichok was never declared to the OPCW. However, the CWC does cover research, and it essentially has to. If it did not, countries would be banned from researching defence against chemical weapons, so a rogue state that made chemical weapons would have enormous power. Countries may store up to 1000kg of Schedule 1 materials (basically, chemical weapons and precursors that have no other uses) and may make up to 100g of anything without declaring it. Also, some chemical warfare agents have legitimate medical uses, amazing as that may be. – David Richerby Mar 19 '18 at 17:23
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    @user5341 can you please answer the question? After all it's a yes/no question. Whether it's irrelevant is ..irrelevant as it is not what the OP asked. – Sklivvz Mar 20 '18 at 21:51
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    @Sklivvz - this is one of those "depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is". Are research weapons "official" or not? Are weapons that aren't covered by CWC "official" or not? (they were specifically designed to go around CWC list of prohibited chemical structures). I'd say the claim as quoted ("all") is false, the claim as in title ("official") is "true or false depending on semantics but false in spirit either way". – user5341 Mar 20 '18 at 22:00
  • I understand your point, thanks for making it explicit – Sklivvz Mar 20 '18 at 22:10
  • @Sklivvz - edited. Hopefully, it's more clearer than muddled up now :) – user5341 Mar 20 '18 at 22:11

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