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Russia destroys last Cold War-era chemical weapons

Russia inherited a massive chemical weapons stockpile from the Soviet Union at the end of the Cold War. Its decision to put an end to that deadly legacy has been met with praise.

Russia completed dismantling its Cold War-era chemical weapons arsenal on Wednesday, according to Russian officials and the head of the international chemical weapons watchdog.

"Russia has fulfilled the undertaken obligations to dispose of all of its stockpiles of this deadly type of weapons - about 40,000 tons ahead of schedule," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Russia's news agency, TASS.

Head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Ahmet Uzumcu.

Ahmet Uzumcu, head of the OPCW, said Russia had achieved a "major milestone"

The head of the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Ahmet Uzumcu, praised the announcement. "The completion of the verified destruction of Russia's chemical weapons program is a major milestone in the achievement of the goals of the Chemical Weapons Convention," he said.

The remaining stockpile was destroyed at the Kizner facility in Russia's Ural Mountains, according to the OPCW. Engineers at the facility reportedly destroyed artillery projectiles filled with chemical agents.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said earlier that his country had planned to complete the work by 2020 in line with its Chemical Weapons Convention obligations. In televised remarks, he praised the country's "huge step towards making the modern world more balanced and safe."

"This is truly a historic event, taking into account the huge amount we inherited from Soviet times that was enough - as experts believed - to destroy all living things many times over," he said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the country had taken a "huge step towards making the modern world more balanced and safe."

He added that the US, which has promised to complete dismantling its chemical weapons stockpile by 2023, was "not carrying out its obligations when it comes to the timeframe of destroying chemical weapons."

The convention, which the OPCW oversees, was signed in 1997 and requires its 192 signatories to destroy all of their chemical weapons. The OPCW says that over 96 percent of declared stockpiles have so far been eliminated.

The OPCW won the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize for its for its work toward eliminating global chemical weapons stockpiles. It was responsible for overseeing the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons in 2013 and investigating a suspected Sarin gas attack in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun in April 2017.

amp/kms (AP, dpa, AFP)

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