- Associated Press - Friday, November 26, 2010

POCHEP, Russia (AP) — Russia will miss a 2012 deadline for destroying all of its chemical weapons, officials said Friday as they inaugurated a major new plant to dispose of them.

The facility at Pochep, in the western Bryansk region, is the latest of several plants built in Russia in recent years to dismantle its Cold War-era chemical weapons arsenals — the world’s largest.

As a signatory of the international Chemical Weapons Convention, the country already has destroyed about half of its chemical weapons, according to Russian officials.

It is facing an April 2012 deadline for destroying all its chemical weapons, but Viktor Kholstov, the Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade’s official in charge of chemical disarmament, said Friday the nation will need two or three more years.

He said the delay had been caused by a shortage of funds in the last two years.

The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a similar warning in August, saying that, because of the global financial crisis, Russia had run into “financial and technical difficulties” that would stretch the time required for completing the disposal of chemical weapons stockpiles by up to three years.

The United States has acknowledged it will miss the deadline, too. Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller said at the United Nations last month that the U.S. had destroyed 78 percent of the chemical weapons stockpiles and is on pace to destroy 90 percent of its arsenal destroyed by April 2012.

Pochep is home to a stockpile of 7,500 tons of nerve agent — nearly 19 percent of the chemical weapons Russia is committed to destroy. Col.-Gen. Valery Kapashin, a military official in charge of storage and elimination of Russia’s chemical stockpiles, said Pochep is expected to destroy its stock of chemical weapons by the end of 2014.

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