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Russia Says It Does Not Recognize Chemical Watchdog's Expanded Powers

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov

Moscow does not recognize new powers the international community has given to the global chemical-weapons watchdog to identify who is responsible for chemical-weapons attacks, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has said.

"Moscow does not recognize the legitimacy of the new mechanism" that was created within the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons by an overwhelming majority vote on June 27, Ryabkov said in comments carried by Russian news agencies on June 28.

"The prospects and the future of the convention itself have become very vague.... We will draw serious conclusions from what is happening," he said.

A special session of the watchdog group meeting in The Hague on June 27 approved by 82-to-24 a British-led proposal to strengthen the mandate of the organization, with the aim of identifying those behind toxic weapons attacks in Syria, Britain, and elsewhere.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson hailed the vote to provide the watchdog with "crucial extra power, not just to identify the use of chemical weapons but also to point the finger at the organization, the state that they think is responsible."

But Russia and its allies Syria and Iran argued that giving the organization the power to say who was to blame for a chemical-weapons attack goes beyond its legal mandate. They maintained that only the United Nations Security Council, which created the organization, has the legal authority to assign such blame.

The Russian ambassador to the Netherlands, Aleksandr Shulgin, warned that what he called an illegitimate expansion of powers threatens the legitimacy of the organization, which he said is now "sinking like the Titanic."

Shulgin said it is possible that Moscow will withdraw from the body.

Based on reporting by AFP and TASS