Russia and CSTO criticize politicization of OPCW’s work

16:49 08.01.2021 •

In the picture H.E. Mr. Alexander Shulgin, Ambassador of the Russian Federation to The Netherlands and Permanent Representative to the OPCW.


Between November 30th and December 4th, representatives of the OPCW’s (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) member states convened for the 25th Session of the Conference of the State Parties (CSP) to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). The aim of the conference was to oversee the CWC’s implementation, promote its objectives, and reviewing compliance with the treaty.

Over the past few years, the OPCW has often been a theatre for confrontation, several times with respect to investigations on the use of chemical weapons in Syria, but also in occasion of the poisoning of a former Russian spy and a Russian opposition leader. These incidents have regularly pitted two blocks – one led by Russia, and the other led by the United States and other Western countries – against each other. On the one hand, Western countries have accused Russia of being behind the two individual poisonings, as well as of shielding the Syrian government from international pressure in the wake of chemical attacks in the country. On the other hand, Russia has vigorously rejected these charges, accusing in turn these countries of politicizing the work of the OPCW to advance their own geopolitical interests.

Below you can find the statements delivered by the representative of the Russian Federation and of the Collective Security Treaty Organization at the 25th Session of the CSP.

Statement by the Delegation of The Russian Federation at the 25th Session of The Conference of The States Parties

On behalf of the Russian delegation, we would like to congratulate the Permanent Representative of Mexico José Antonio Zabalgoitia Trejo on his election as the Chair of the Conference of the States Parties (CSP) to the CWС and assure him of our willingness to cooperate constructively for the Conference to be as fruitful as possible. Allow me also to thank the Permanent Representative of Bulgaria Krasimir Kostov and the Director-General Fernando Arias for their great work to organize and prepare today’s event.

The session is taking place in extraordinary conditions of COVID-19. It affects everyone, including our Organization, which has to hold its core meetings in a truncated format and virtually in the absence of delegates from capitals.

The work within the framework of the CWC continues. Summing up the results of the outgoing year, we note with deep regret that the crisis that emerged in the OPCW several years ago is gradually becoming systemic. As a cancerous tumor, it corrodes all areas of the OPCW work, undermines efforts to universalize the Convention and trust to the Organization as an outpost of non-proliferation of chemical weapons and disarmament. Exorbitant politicization of many agenda items, violation of the principle of consensus, imposing for consideration of issues outside the legal scope of the Convention, and blurring of the OPCW mandate to serve political interests of certain countries and their geopolitical ambitions are not episodes but trends of everyday life.

President Vladimir Putin during the CSTO meeting.

Such examples are numerous. Particularly flagrant were cases of drawing the Organization, which was an important pillar of the international security system for many years, into political games involving blatant provocations. Syria has been targeted for a long time, but recently such approaches have been applied to Russia – suffice to mention the events in Salisbury and the most recent debacle with A. Navalny.

In our view, the unbridled campaign concerning the so-called poisoning of that Russian blogger and related efforts by Germany and its Euro-Atlantic allies on the platform of the OPCW show their intention to use this international organization to exert political and sanction pressure on the Russian Federation. Evidently, someone got an idea to repeat the «success» of the UK in inciting Russophobia with regard to the so-called Skripals case. The fake-story initially launched by Germany of the alleged poisoning of Mr. Navalny in Russia by some exotic «Novichok» and then the saving of his life in Omsk by Russian doctors and rapid departure to Berlin for treatment cannot withstand any criticism of common sense. The subsequent events are beyond all bounds in a civilized society. Instead of trying to look into what had happened, Germany and its allies resorted to megaphone diplomacy, unleashed a mass disinformation campaign against Russia and started to demand some «independent international investigation» under the auspices of the OPCW.

But it was just a verbal propagandistic stunt. In reality, from the beginning the German Government started to actively counter Russia’s pre-investigation review of the situation with A. Navalny, impeding the establishment of truth. The evidence of it is its utter refusal to cooperate with Russian law-enforcement and health agencies, blatant disregard of or formal replies to already five requests from the Office of the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation submitted in accordance with the 1959 European Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters and two Additional Protocols thereto.

Berlin committed a direct violation of the CWC norms. How else can one qualify the unwillingness of Germany to fulfill its obligations under Articles VII and IX of the CWC, which clearly stipulate that States Parties shall afford each other legal assistance, and make every effort to clarify, through exchange of information and consultations among themselves, any matter which may be considered ambiguous?

The German side classified the information on the substance allegedly found in A. Navalny’s samples. But according to the conclusions of the OPCW Technical Secretariat (Secretariat) on the outcomes of the technical assistance to Germany it is not controlled under the Convention. Does not Berlin understand the absurdity of its conduct? We would like to remind that after the events in Salisbury/Amesbury the States Parties undertook without delay steps to ban new lethal substances, adding them to respective lists. But in this case they tell us: we know but will tell no one which dangerous «Novichok» we have found. If Germany, along with France and Sweden, which also conducted relevant investigations, were really concerned about strengthening the Convention, they would have informed without delay about their findings not only Russia, but also the entire OPCW. But if they have nothing to present, all this hype is a blatant provocation in worst traditions of a “hybrid war”. There is only one evidently positive thing: Mr. Navalny is alive and healthy and is resting, as we understand, in Germany.

The Secretariat was also beneath the mark in that story. It could not give answers to legitimate questions of Russia, having hidden under the guise of policy of confidentiality. Who, if not the Secretariat, should have carefully hinted the German side that it is counterproductive to classify detailed data on the analysis of A. Navalny’s samples and is inconsistent with the letter and spirit of the Convention, especially in light of the request for Russia’s technical assistance. The truth can only be found when comparing the results of such analysis received by our countries.

Everything around this semi-detective story is perplexing and makes us wonder whether it is the same Organization that its founding fathers envisaged and created, and whether we are witnessing a cardinal shift of its paradigm? Another deep divide within the OPCW, which bothers everyone, is, certainly, attribution. The decision imposed in June 2018 by voting on mandating the Secretariat with obligations to identify the perpetrators of the use of chemical weapons is absolutely illegal. This innovation is outside the Organization’s mandate, it goes beyond the scope of the Convention and infringes on the exclusive competence of the UN Security Council.

The first conclusions of the OPCW Investigation and Identification Team (IIT) on the events in Ltamenah on 24, 25 and 30 March 2017 were not a revelation to us, as likely to the majority of the OPCW Members. There was no doubt that the IIT was created with the only goal to serve as an instrument of pressure on the undesired Member States, first of all Syria. The ultimatum decision taken by the Executive Council last July and containing deliberately impossible measures was an evidence of that. There is another dangerous precedent set when dubious politicized conclusions à la «there are reasonable grounds to believe» made by an illegitimate structure are taken for granted without discussion and are simply “rubber-stamped” by a decision of the policy-making organ of the Organization. The authors of this action deliberately refused to use mechanisms set out in the Convention to address the concerns, in particular, those mentioned in Article IX of the CWC. And now they are trying to steamroll within the OPCW the decision on depriving Syria of its rights and privileges, which is absolutely unacceptable and just shatters the faith in the Organization and ruins prospects of its universalization. Which of the remaining «overboard» countries will want to join the OPCW if it is becoming a «kangaroo court» for its Member States?

Despite difficulties caused by the bloody war, Syria completely destroyed under strict international control its stockpiles of chemical weapons and continues to diligently cooperate with the Secretariat in the framework of the mechanisms set out in the Convention. The evidence of it is the progress in verifying Syria’s initial declaration under the CWC. The relevant special mission (the Declaration Assessment Team (DAT)) and the Syrian side have done a tremendous job in this direction. The Syrian authorities are taking unprecedented measures of transparency with regard to providing documentation and to additional declaration of past activities. However, it is necessary to realize that after so many years and in the conditions of a protracted armed conflict Damascus cannot provide confirming data with respect to a part of claims. As we see, the Secretariat also falters, as it was in the case of loss of samples taken in Syria in October 2019. There were precedents in the past when the Secretariat was not able to confirm the number of the destroyed or «vanished» chemical weapons by this or that State Party. Nevertheless, exceptions were made and those issues were closed. In the case of Syria, we should be realistic and remove “in-limbo” issues from the agenda, as such a state of affairs cannot last forever. But it requires the political will which is not yet observed.

The Collective Security Treaty Organization at the 25th Session of the CSP.

Russia has repeatedly stated the need for a substantial reform of the Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) in Syria. We repeat time and again the demand to put an end to «in-office investigations», which are carried out without visits to sites of incidents and sample collection by inspectors, without following the sequence of actions while ensuring the chain of custody, and relying on the biased NPOs funded by Damascus’s adversaries. The exposed egregious case of rigging the results of investigations of events in Douma will remain a blot on the OPCW history. The revelations of the politically motivated report to justify the missile strike on Syria by Washington, London and Paris without any trial and in violation of the UN Charter seriously damaged the OPCW reputation.

We cannot be silent about outrageous double standards in the work of this structure: investigations of incidents reported by the Syrian Government, unlike those declared by the opposition, are procrastinated and do not confirm by some reason the facts of the use of chemical weapons by terrorists. An illustration of that is the ineffective two-year investigation into the chemical attack in Aleppo committed by militants on 24 November 2018. We are deeply concerned by the fact that the information submitted by two Member States was not compelling for the Secretariat. Such conclusions are beneficial only for those who continue, with impunity, to use chemicals for military purposes. 

We condemn the threats of using chemical weapons by anyone, including on civilian facilities. In this regard, we do not accept the use of any dangerous chemicals, including white phosphorus.

We are extremely disappointed by the last-year process of agreeing on the draft OPCW Programme and Budget for 2021. We strongly oppose the imposition to Member States against their will of financial obligations due to the illegitimate work of the attribution mechanism. We regret to state that certain Members of the Organization, ignoring opinions of other delegations, try to ensure their interests by jamming through the “omnibus” version of the financial document unacceptable for others. And the Secretariat, unfortunately, plays rather a destructive than a constructive role as it is the sponsor of the draft. We understand the critical importance of the OPCW budgeting, however, we do not accept flawed methods used for it.

We should also mention the disruptive role the US has been playing in the life of the OPCW in recent years. It is seen both in «major» and «minor» things. As for the latter, we recall Washington’s attempts to politicize the activity of the Advisory Body on Administrative and Financial Matters (ABAF). The nomination of national candidates to this structure or their dismissal is a prerogative of the respective Member State, which is consistent with the best practices of other international organizations. However, on the whim of the US delegation ABAF’s work has been blocked for two years (reports have not been adopted). The removal of the Russian expert from ABAF at the initiative of the US was a flagrant infringement of the independence of the activity of this entity.

Not a less representative example of the shattering of the OPCW pillars is persistent steamrolling by the US of the ban on the use of aerosolized chemicals affecting the central nervous system for law-enforcement purposes. In this matter, Americans hide behind the backs of its co-sponsors, but they are well known to be the key driver of that distorted initiative. If we start to implement the Convention on the basis of some «understandings» beyond its legal norms and principles, it will become sooner or later just a blank sheet of paper. Certain Member States should not be deluded by assurances of the proponents that their obligations would not increase. They would feel the opposite as soon as they would need to be pointed out at it for political motives.

As a State that stood at the origin of the elaboration of the Convention, Russia deems the earliest destruction of the chemical weapon stockpiles in the entire world an imperative. That is why our country fulfilled its obligations under the CWC three years ahead of the deadline, having destructed the world-biggest arsenal of the former USSR of 40,000 tons. As of today, there is only the US with declared chemical weapon stockpiles. We call on the US counterparts to follow our example and expedite as much as possible the destruction of the declared stockpiles to complete this process ahead of the set time limit.

We are convinced that all the identified problems can be solved given the political will of the Member States and unbiased and impartial approach of the OPCW Secretariat. It requires abandoning, once and forever, the escalation of confrontation and politicization of the work the Organization, which is technical in its nature, and restoring its unity and the priority of consensus decision-making. We are ready for that.

In conclusion, we would like to assure you, Mr. Chair, in our unwavering support and commitment to constructive work.

Statement on behalf of The Collective Security Treaty Organisation Member States which are parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention at the 25th Session of The Conference of The States Parties

I have the honor of delivering this statement on behalf of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) members which are States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).

In these difficult times, when the efforts of the entire international community are focused on fighting the coronavirus pandemic, it is critical for the OPCW to show unity in the face of turbulent politics and global economy, its commitment to the goals and purposes of the Convention, and readiness to do away with one of the most dangerous and deadly types of WMD.

In this regard, first of all we would like to thank Chairperson of the 24th Session of the Conference of the States Parties (CSP), H.E. Ambassador Krassimir Kostov of Bulgaria, and Chairperson of the Executive Council H.E. Ambassador Agustín Vásquez Gómez of El Salvador for their efforts in guiding the inter-sessional work and the preparation of this meeting. At the same time, we avail ourselves of this opportunity to point out the efforts of Director-General H.E. Fernando Arias and the Technical Secretariat in managing this event and taking measures against COVID-19 that emphasize that safety and security of participating delegations are the absolute priority.

We congratulate H.E. Ambassador José Antonio Zabalgoitia Trejo of Mexico upon his election to the post of the Chair of the 25th CSP Session and are confident that his professionalism and experience will help to ensure the success of this event.

Recognizing global problems related to the pandemic, and its unprecedented negative effects, as well as significant multilateral efforts to prevent further spread of the disease, we are still convinced that universal accession to the Convention is utmost goal. In this regard, we value the ongoing work of the Technical Secretariat in this area. CSTO Member States attach great importance to the universal nature of the CWC, and we encourage States which are not yet its parties to ratify the Convention without delay or to accede to it.

We reiterate that the integrity of the OPCW and consensus building in decision-making within the Organisation play a fundamental role in maintaining stability of the global architecture of non-proliferation and disarmament. The apolitical, purely technical, and unconfrontational nature of its work is one of the major prerequisites for achieving the main aim of the CWC – to create a world free of chemical weapons. This is why we encourage Member States to refrain from any attempt to politicize OPCW activities. Such actions can only deepen the rift between its Member States instead of leading to a search for compromise to achieve the goals and objectives of the Chemical Weapons Convention. In this context, we are concerned about the interpretation of provisions of the Convention in the interests of certain countries.

Attribution in the OPCW and the granting of non-relevant powers of identifying the perpetrators of the use of chemical weapons to the Technical Secretariat are unacceptable. We are sure that the United Nations Security Council has the exclusive competence in this regard and therefore believe that the reshaping of the OPCW mandate is a mistake. We proceed from the fact that any additional obligations of Member States can only be introduced by amending the Convention accordingly.

We strongly condemn the threats of using chemical weapons by anyone, including on civilian facilities. We strongly oppose the use of any dangerous chemicals, including white phosphorus.

CSTO Member States are convinced that the effective work of the OPCW largely depends on the role of the Technical Secretariat as an independent working body serving the interests of all its Member States. In order to strengthen its potential, gender and geographical balance needs to be improved through a transparent recruitment process. We urge for taking corresponding efforts to reach progress in this area.

Since its establishment, the CSTO has evolved into a multifunctional institution able to successfully respond to challenges within the area of its responsibility. Bearing in mind the lessons learned, we call for closer cooperation between our organisations in order to strengthen the international security.

Mr. Chair, in conclusion, CSTO Member States encourage all States Parties to the Conference to work in good faith towards the successful conclusion of the current session.

We request to treat this report as an official document and publish it on the OPCW external server and public website.


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