Russia ‘does not recognize’ extra powers to global chemical arms body: official

Russia’s deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov on Thursday said Moscow does not recognise new powers the international community has given the global chemical weapons watchdog.

“Moscow does not recognise the legitimacy of the new mechanism within the OPCW [the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons],” Ryabkov said in comments carried by Russian news agencies.

“The prospects and the future of the [body’s] convention itself have become very vague…We will draw serious conclusions from what is happening,” he said.

On Wednesday a British-led proposal to strengthen the mandate of the OPCW, with the aim of identifying those behind toxic arms attacks in Syria, passed in The Hague by 82 votes in favour with 24 against.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson hailed the watchdog’s “crucial extra power, not just to identify the use of chemical weapons, but also to point the finger at the organisation, the state that they think is responsible”.

But Moscow, which along with Syria and Iran had vehemently opposed the move, shot back that the move was a sign the watchdog was on the brink of collapse.

The Russian ambassador to the Netherlands Alexander Shulgin said the OPCW was “sinking like the Titanic”, adding it was possible that Moscow could withdraw from the body.

Russia, with its allies, had argued that giving the OPCW the power to say who was behind a chemical weapons attack was going beyond its legal mandate, maintaining only bodies such as the UN Security Council had such authority.