MOSCOW Russia has destroyed its store of shells that were to have been used with chemical weapons and has sent 11 tons of phosgene to a plant in the Ural Mountains for recycling, a Russian official said Thursday.
Russia has the world's largest arsenal of chemical weapons: some 44,000 tons stored at seven sites.
Russia ratified the convention on Chemical Weapons in 1997, committing itself to destroy the stockpile within a decade. But it complained that it could not afford the estimated $7 billion program despite pledges of aid from the United States, Europe and Canada.
This year, the Cabinet approved a new, cheaper program that would allow Russia to destroy its arsenal by 2012, without having to seek international funding beyond what has already been pledged. The new program cuts the originally planned seven destruction sites to three, and halves the estimated cost to about $3.5 billion.
The chemical weapons elimination process got under way this year with the destruction of detonators used for Russia's chemical weapons. Now the entire stockpile of phosgene, a so-called choking agent that disables or kills by making the lungs fill with fluid, has been sent to a plant in the Ural Mountains city of Perm for reprocessing, said Alexander Gorbovsky, an official with the Russian Munitions Agency, which is responsible for chemical weapons.
Destruction of the phosgene stocks is the least complex of all the weapons elimination processes because the compound can be transformed into an industrial chemical.
Gorbovsky said that the powder and explosive shells used for chemical weapons have been destroyed.