Putin's chemical weapons program continues as Russia loses seat on world chemical warfare monitoring agency

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Russian President Vladimir Putin faced another overlooked setback on the international stage, a new report by the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) highlights.

In a blow to Russian influence and prestige, members of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) ousted Russia for the first time ever from the body’s 41-member Executive Council while electing Ukraine to fill one of three open seats in the OPCW’s Eastern European Group.

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The report, titled “For Russia, A Year of Setbacks at the OPCW,” notes that the challenge ahead is for the United States and its allies to hold Russia accountable for its violations of the Chemical Weapons Convention, the treaty that established the OPCW to ensure its implementation.

Russian opposition activist and blogger Alexei Navalny speaks during a mass anti-Putin rally on December, 24, 2011 in Moscow. (Photo by Konstantin Zavrazhin/Getty Images)

The continued possession and stockpiling of chemical weapons by Russia received far too little focus, the report argues. Moscow remains an OPCW member despite openly trying to assassinate its enemies with chemical weapons, including Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, who died in a Siberian prison colony and had been poisoned numerous times in the past for being the main political opponent of Putin.

“Navalny’s tragic death should galvanize action by Western governments across the international organization space. The ideal place to start is the OPCW and penalizing Putin for his original chemical weapons attack on Navalny,” Andrea Stricker, deputy director of FDD’s Nonproliferation and Biodefense Program and author of the report, told Fox News Digital.

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Critics argue that Navalny’s tragic demise is evidence to the world that Russia flagrantly violates international norms and law on the use of chemical weapons out in the open.

Navalny tribute in Moscow, Russia

People lay flowers paying their respects to Alexei Navalny at the Wall of Sorrow memorial to victims of political repression in Moscow on Friday, Feb. 16. (AP/Dmitry Serebryakov)

The OPCW has neither imposed meaningful consequences nor demanded accountability for Russia’s continued stockpiling of chemical weapons, its use of the nerve agent Novichok in the attempted assassination of Putin’s critics and its threats to use chemical weapons in Ukraine, the report argues.

Stricker argues that every country with an interest in penalizing Russia for the invasion of Ukraine should work to sideline Moscow’s voting abilities and leadership roles in other international organizations as well.

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“This would not only curtail Russian influence within key organizations but limit something Moscow truly prizes – a means to propagate misinformation that Russia abides by its international commitments and a shield from accountability,” she said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures as he gives his annual state of the nation address in Manezh, Moscow on Wednesday, April 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

A key opportunity for the international community to hold Russia accountable will be the July 2024 Executive Council meeting, likely the first gathering after Russia’s ouster from the council. The report argues that the member states should use the Syria case as a model, and if Moscow fails to comply, member states should move to suspend Russia’s privileges at the OPCW. 

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“They must definitively insist on the full, verifiable dismantling of Vladimir Putin’s chemical weapons program as a condition of Russia’s continued participation in the OPCW,” the report says.

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