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Facility to Destroy Chemical Weapons Opens

ReutersA worker dressed in protective gear preparing a chemical bomb for destruction at the Shchuchye facility last year.
SHCHUCHYE, Kurgan Region -- Much of Russia's vast Cold War stockpile of chemical weapons, many with single warheads that could kill thousands, will be destroyed at a remote Urals facility that opened Friday.

The United States has contributed more than $1 billion to the construction of the plant near the town of Shchuchye. At the opening ceremony, U.S. Senator Richard Lugar recalled that nine years ago a Russian major showed him how an 85 mm chemical weapon shell could fit inside a briefcase. This had concentrated minds in Washington about the dangers of not dealing with the stockpiles, he said.

"The path to peace and prosperity for both Russia and the United States depend on how we resolve the threats posed by the arsenals built to fight World War III," Lugar said.

Russia has not stated how much it invested in the plant, but it was due to fund about half the construction costs, with the United States paying 36 percent and the European Union and some of its member states paying the rest.

By 2003, Russia had destroyed just 1 percent of its chemical weapon stockpiles, but this figure has now risen to nearly 45 percent, Industry and Trade Minister Viktor Khristenko said at the ceremony.

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