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Russia Accuses Britain of Bribing, Manipulating OPCW Members

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Russia considers the decision to expand the mandate of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) illegitimate, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.

“As a result of political manipulation, as well as, as has become known, the direct bribery of a number of delegations and outright blackmail, the UK and other states that are in favor of strengthening the chemical convention have managed to squeeze out its odious draft decision, which has conferred on the OPCW Technical Secretariat the powers to identify those responsible for the use of chemical weapons in Syria,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova stated.

According to Zakharova, Moscow considers the “odious draft decision” to be “illegitimate.”

“We consider this decision illegitimate. We have to point out that the conference of the participating states went beyond the scope of its mandate while adopting this decision,” Zakharova said at a weekly briefing.

Russia and the OPCW disagree on the issue of chemical attacks in Syria as the organization claims that Syrian government troops are responsible for a number of chemical attacks in the country while Moscow insists that the accusations are groundless.

Earlier, Russia’s deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov said Moscow does not recognize new powers the international community has given the global chemical weapons watchdog.

“Moscow does not recognize the legitimacy of the new mechanism within the OPCW (the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons),” Ryabkov said in comments carried by Russian news agencies.

“The prospects and the future of the (body’s) convention itself have become very vague… We will draw serious conclusions from what is happening,” he said.

On Wednesday a British-led proposal to strengthen the mandate of the OPCW, with the aim of identifying those behind toxic arms attacks in Syria, passed in The Hague by 82 votes in favor with 24 against.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson hailed the watchdog’s “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 Moscow, which along with Syria and Iran had vehemently opposed the move, shot back that the move was a sign the watchdog was on the brink of collapse.

The Russian ambassador to the Netherlands Alexander Shulgin said the OPCW was “sinking like the Titanic”, adding it was possible that Moscow could withdraw from the body.

Russia had argued that giving the OPCW the power to say who was behind a chemical weapons attack was going beyond its legal mandate, maintaining only bodies such as the UN Security Council had such authority.

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