Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Statement by Konstantin Vorontsov, Deputy Head of the Delegation of the Russian Federation, at the Thematic Debate on “Other WMDs” in the First Committee of the 78th Session of the UNGA

Mr. Chair,

The Russian Federation, as a depositary State of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC), has consistently implemented all its provisions. The Convention was the first international treaty to outlaw an entire category of weapons of mass destruction. It was a significant step forward in advancing general and complete disarmament that helped to reduce the threat of the use of biological agents for weapons purposes.

However, even after half a century of the Convention's existence, we cannot claim that the problem of biological weapons has been completely removed from the agenda of the international community. In the context of the BWC obligations, recently discovered facts about the military biological programme being implemented in Ukraine with support of the Pentagon and its affiliated structures, including private companies, require the closest attention. The analysis of the projects carried out in Ukrainian laboratories leads to the conclusion that biological weapons components were being developed in close proximity to the Russian territory.

To address reasonable questions regarding Kiev's and Washington's compliance with the BWC obligations, Russia initiated holding a BWC Article V Consultative Meeting (Geneva, September 5–9, 2022), as well as the meetings of the UN Security Council in order to consider Russia's complaint and proposal to conduct an international investigation under the auspices of the Council on BWC Article VI (October 27 and November 2, 2022). During these events, as well as at the Ninth Review Conference of the BWC (Geneva, November 28 – December 16, 2022), the Russian side provided all necessary explanations and presented a huge amount of available materials. However, our well-founded questions to the United States and Ukraine, supported by many other states, have not yet received a proper response; they remain open and need to be addressed.

But these problems did not arise out of nowhere. Due to the lack of a verification mechanism under the Convention, it is not possible to oblige countries to share information on their military biological activities. Therefore, consolidated efforts of the international community are required to strengthen the BWC regime. The adoption of a universal, legally binding, non-discriminatory protocol relating to all articles of the Convention, with an effective verification mechanism, would greatly enhance the effectiveness of the Convention. Unfortunately, the development of such an instrument which could ensure reliable implementation of the BWC and prevent its violation, has been blocked by the United States since 2001. This fact, together with the Ukrainian case, only strengthens suspicions regarding Washington's military biological activities carried out around the world under the guise of cooperation for peaceful purposes.

Russia intends to continue taking active steps to strengthen the BWC within the framework of the specialized Working Group established by the decision of the Ninth BWC Review Conference. We believe that the Russian initiatives aimed at effectively strengthening the Convention regime are fully in line with the Group's agenda. These include the creation of mobile biomedical units; the establishment of a Scientific Advisory Committee; the strengthening of confidence-building measures under the BWC through the provision by States Parties to the Convention of information on military biological activities outside their national territory; and the creation of a mechanism for investigating alleged violations of obligations under the BWC.

The proposal under Article VI of the BWC in no way calls into question the independent status of the UN Secretary General's Mechanism for Investigation of the Alleged Use of Chemical and Biological Weapons (UNSGM). On the contrary, these international instruments could complement each other in the context of the application 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.

We are convinced that it is necessary to intensify the efforts of the international community to strengthen the expert and technical potential of the UNSGM. Special attention should be paid to the principles and procedures of the Mechanism which, with the exception of technical appendices (partly amended in 2007), have not been updated since they were approved by UN General Assembly resolution 45/57C of December 4, 1990. Being developed more than 30 years ago, they do not fully correspond to the present-day realities in the field of chemical and biological security. New challenges and threats have emerged, as well as a number of technical and methodological innovations that could contribute to improving the effectiveness of the UNSGM.

In order to facilitate the achievement of this goal, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov sent a message to UN Secretary-General António Guterres on June 14 this year calling for a review of the existing principles and procedures of the UNSGM with a view to updating them. A whole group of countries supported the idea, and a number of States submitted similar proposals to the United Nations Secretary-General. We hope that Mr. Guterres will proceed without delay to an appropriate review with the assistance of expert consultants and taking into account the proposals of Member States. We are eager to contribute most actively to this work.

Mr. Chair,

The Russian Federation, as one of the founding members of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), is interested in the successful functioning of the OPCW as one of the most important elements of the international system of disarmament and WMD non-proliferation. Not only do we continue to insist on the latter, but also confirm our words by actions. In 2017, for example, Russia eliminated its national chemical stockpiles, and this was done three years ahead of the scheduled deadline. This year, after a quarter of a century of the Organization's existence, the last possessor State, the United States, finally completed the destruction of its declared chemical weapons stockpile.

However, much remains to be done to free the world from the chemical threat. The issues of non-proliferation and preventing the re-emergence of chemical weapons are becoming increasingly important in the work of the OPCW. The problem of "chemical terrorism" in the Middle East, which threatens to spread beyond the region, is of particular relevance. There remains a high risk of provocations at chemical industry facilities by neo-Nazi armed groups in Ukraine, including with the direct involvement of foreign intelligence services and private military companies.

The excessive politicization of the work of the OPCW by the US-led Euro-Atlantic allies does not allow the Organization to respond adequately to new challenges, destroys its integrity and leads to undermining the foundations of the Convention. Attempts by Western countries to turn the OPCW, which is purely technical in nature, into a kind of judicial body vis-а-vis the undesirable countries have already led to a profound divide among the Member States. As a result of this destructive policy, the Fifth Review Conference of the CWC this May failed to make recommendations on its future activities.

The unhealthy situation in the OPCW has a negative impact on the work of other international structures as well. Groundless accusations against responsible States Parties to the CWC are regularly heard at meetings of the United Nations Security Council and are reflected in draft documents of the General Assembly. We consider this situation totally unacceptable. We intend to continue to make every effort, together with our partners and other like-minded actors, to achieve consensus on all issues on the OPCW agenda and to restore the authority of this international organization.

Thank you.