Russian parliament approves chemical ban pact
Cost concerns put aside
October 31, 1997
Web posted at: 8:15 a.m. EST (1315 GMT)
MOSCOW (CNN) -- Russia's lower house of parliament voted Friday to ratify a global ban on chemical weapons after being persuaded that the nation could afford the cost of carrying it out. President Boris Yeltsin supports the ban.
The Duma, dominated by Yeltsin critics concerned about the cost of scrapping chemical arms, gave its approval in a 288-75 vote, with two abstentions, after Yeltsin's cash-strapped government said it would find the necessary funds.
The measure will now be put to a vote in parliament's more Yeltsin-friendly upper house, the Federation Council.
The Chemical Weapons Convention was signed in Paris in January 1993 and took effect last April 29. It bans the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of chemical weapons. Although 165 countries, including Russia, have signed it, only 100 have ratified it. The United States ratified the convention in April.
Russia's support for the pact is important because it is the world's largest possessor of chemical weapons, with stocks of about 40,000 tons. Many of its chemical weapons are kept in aging and unsafe facilities.
Signatories to the convention must destroy their chemical weapons and production facilities within 10 years and provide detailed information about production and export of listed chemicals which could be used to make them.
Signatories are also obliged to open their chemical plants to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) for both routine and short-notice inspections.
In a letter to Duma speaker Gennady Seleznyov, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin acknowledged this week that the government has had trouble coming up with appropriate financing to destroy stockpiles of chemical weapons, but said "this situation will be corrected in 1998."
Russia estimates the cost of destroying its chemical weapons at $5 billion to $6 billion.
Correspondent Betsy Aaron contributed to this report.