Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Statement by Deputy Head of delegation of the Russian Federation K.Vorontsov in the First Committee of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly at the Thematic Debate on "Other Weapons of Mass Destruction"

Mr. Chair, 

Russia fully supports the international regime of prohibition of chemical, biological and toxin weapons and consistently advocates its universalization and strengthening.

We strictly adhere to our obligations under the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC), which outlawed an entire category of WMD. The BWC should remain a reliable instrument for reducing the threat of the use of biological agents as weapons and promote international cooperation in the biological field for peaceful purposes. The highest effectiveness of the Convention can be achieved only through the full implementation of its provisions by all States Parties. The adoption of the legally binding Protocol to the Convention with a credible verification mechanism would help solve this problem. 

We call for productive use of the Meeting of States Parties to the Convention scheduled for November 2021 to consolidate consensus regarding certain proposals to improve the implementation of the Convention for their approval at the BWC Review Conference in 2022. Russia's initiatives seem rather useful to that end. I mean, in particular, the establishing within the BWC of mobile biomedical units to render assistance in case of the use of biological weapons, investigate such use, and to help in coping with infectious diseases of various origin and train personnel. Given the positive experience of Russian specialists, the concept of mobile units would ensure integrated implementation of a whole range of BWC provisions, including, but not limited to, international cooperation under Article Х.

We also propose to establish a scientific advisory committee under the Convention, which will assess scientific and technological achievements related to the Convention and provide relevant recommendations. We expect consensus among the States Parties.

We note the increased military-biological activity of certain States beyond their national borders, which challenges the BWC regime as such activity is not controlled. With a view to enhancing transparency, we proposed to improve the format of confidence building measures by including in the report form data on military-biological activity abroad to ensure assurance that the BWC is complied with. We call upon everyone concerned to refrain from the militarization of public healthcare. Also, we expect the engagement of the consultative procedures established by the BWTC to resolve all issues that exist or are likely to arise in relation to the implementation of the Convention provisions. 

The Russian Federation presented an initiative on the establishment of a group of governmental experts with the participation of all interested BWC States with a view to developing a concrete mechanism of the implementation of Article VI of the Convention on investigation of alleged violations of the BWC. There is a long-overdue need for elaboration of certain procedures for the implementation of this BWC provision.

Our proposal does not in any way prejudice the independent status of the UN Secretary-General's mechanism for investigating alleged use of chemical and biological weapons. On the contrary, these international instruments could complement each other in the context of the implementation of the BWC and the 1925 Geneva Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare. 

Russia reaffirms its interest in strengthening expert and technological potential of the UN Secretary-General's mechanism and intends to further contribute to common efforts of the world community. In terms of the practical use of the Mechanism, we attach importance to its principles and procedures contained in Annex I to UN document A/44/561. However, those principles and procedures, except for annexes, have not been updated since their approval by UN GA resolution 45/57С of 4 December 1990. In this regard, there is high risk that they are outdated. With a view to starting work to ensure the effective use of the Mechanism, the Russian Federation submitted a draft relevant resolution to the First Committee. We ask your support and co-sponsorship. 

In the absence of any visible progress in strengthening the BWC, ideas still emerge aimed to build parallel formats, not based on the BWC provisions. They include so called "peer reviews” of dual-use microbiological facilities. The ideas are rather dubious as they lack impartial criteria for assessment and selection of participants. We cannot agree with such concepts that are unclear in terms of practical implementation. 

Mr. Chair,

The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) is a key instrument of chemical disarmament and non-proliferation. The Russian Federation stood at the origins of the CWC and has consistently supported its strengthening. 

We scrupulously and fully comply with our obligations under the Convention. A vivid depiction of this is the early destruction by Russia in 2017 of its chemical weapons stockpile, which was confirmed by the Technical Secretariat of Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (ОPCW). We call on the United States, the last country in the world possessing the declared chemical weapons, to destroy its stockpiles promptly. The US side has all financial and technological resources to do it.

The OPCW is in a difficult situation. This once reputable international structure, which received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013, where all decisions were always taken by consensus, divided due to politicization, dilution of its mandate and derogation from the CWC provisions. A number of States have in fact reformatted the OPCW to serve their self-serving geopolitical agendas. This could not but affect the OPCW reputation and confidence in its expertise. 

In April 2021, several countries forced through, via voting in the OPCW, an unprecedented for the Organization decision on the suppression of Syria’s rights and privileges under the CWC. It was based on biased and unsubstantiated conclusions of the illegitimate Investigation and Identification Team (IIT) created in violation of Article XV of the Convention.

Two reports of the IIT – on the chemical incidents in the towns of Al Lataminah and Saraqib – are partial, factually unreliable, technically ignorant and methodologically void. Obviously, the objective of the Team was not to sort out professionally and objectively what had happened but to forge conclusions so to lay the blame exclusively on Damascus. Thus, for the first time in the OPCW history and in violation of the CWC norms and the principle of consensus, the mission to accuse a diligent State Party to the Convention in non-compliance with its obligations was accomplished. Such an approach is completely unacceptable. 

In the same vein is a draft decision on the Aerosolised Use of Central Nervous System-Acting Chemicals for Law Enforcement Purposes, which is contrary to the CWC provisions and ignores the opinion of many OPCW Member States and which is proposed to be approved at the 26th session of the Conference of the States Parties of the CWC in November 2021. In accordance with its Article XV, such amendments may be made to the CWC only by absolute consensus. Russia does not associate itself with this decision in any way. We call on the CWC States Parties to vote against this ineligible proposal, stop further politicization of the OPCW activity and take joint measures to preserve the integrity of the Convention. 

The Syrian Arab Republic regularly provides the UNSC and the OPCW with information about the preparation by militants of chemical attacks and provocations. Terrorists possess their own technological and production capacities to synthesize chemical warfare agents and have extended channels for procuring their precursors. There is a risk of recurrence of chemical terrorism outside Syria. We believe the information provided by the Syrian side should be treated seriously in order to counter the real threat of chemical terrorism via coordinated efforts. 

In this context, back in 2016 the Russian Federation submitted to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva draft basic elements for the suppression of acts of chemical and biological terrorism. Our proposal, which enjoys wide support at the Conference, is still valid. 

Thank you.