Statement on Ukraine from the OPCW Spokesperson

7 May 2024

Statement attributable to the spokesperson for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)

The Secretariat of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has been monitoring the situation on the territory of Ukraine since the start of the war in February 2022 in relation to allegations of use of toxic chemicals as weapons. 

Both the Russian Federation and Ukraine have accused one another and reported allegations of use of chemical weapons to the Organisation. 

A compendium of all official correspondence by States Parties on such allegations and accusations has been made available on the OPCW public website and is regularly updated. 

The information provided to the Organisation so far by both sides, together with the information available to the Secretariat, is insufficiently substantiated. 

Still, the situation remains volatile and extremely concerning regarding the possible re-emergence of use of toxic chemicals as weapons. 

The destruction of all declared chemical weapons stockpiles in the world was achieved in July 2023 under strict verification of the OPCW Secretariat. 

This does not mean that chemical weapons do not exist anymore. 

Under the Chemical Weapons Convention, any toxic chemical, used for its toxic properties with the purpose to cause harm or death is considered a chemical weapon. 

This includes the diversion of dual-use toxic chemicals produced worldwide by the chemical industry from their declared non-prohibited purposes. 

Additionally, under the Convention, States Parties have the obligation to declare all toxic chemical agents they hold for riot control purposes. 

It is against the Convention to use riot control agents at war on the battlefield. If used as a method of warfare, these agents are considered chemical weapons and, hence, are prohibited under the Convention. 

Moreover, under Article II, paragraph 7 of the Convention, a Riot Control Agent is defined as any chemical not listed in a Schedule, which can produce rapidly in humans sensory irritation or disabling effects which disappear within a short time following termination of exposure.  

Accordingly, any use, as a Riot Control Agent, of a toxic chemical belonging to one of the three Schedules listed in the Annex to the Convention on Chemicals would be contrary to the Convention.  

On 1 May, the United States of America announced that it had imposed new measures on the Russian Federation for its full-scale war and use of chemical weapons against Ukraine, including for its use of chloropicrin, a chemical belonging to Schedule 3 of the Convention, as well as riot control agents as a method of warfare. 

For its part, the Russian Federation has denied making use of such weapons.  

It is recalled that, to conduct any activities pertaining to allegations of use of toxic chemicals as weapons, the Secretariat of the OPCW would need to be formally seized of a request to conduct such activity by States Parties. 

So far, the Secretariat has not received any such request for action. 

We will continue to monitor the situation and maintain our readiness to deploy. 

We remain in contact with concerned States Parties and invite those that may have substantiated information to share it with the Secretariat. 

In the meantime, the OPCW will continue to provide support to Ukraine, upon its request, in the field of assistance and protection against chemical weapons under Article X of the Convention. 

In this framework, the Secretariat has been working on delivering training courses on emergency response, and the provision of protective, detection, and identification equipment, together with the relevant training. 

All 193 OPCW Member States, thus including the Russian Federation and Ukraine, have committed never to develop, produce, acquire, stockpile, transfer or use chemical weapons. 

States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention have declared that any use of chemical weapons is totally unacceptable and would violate the legal norms and standards of the international community.