Putin Sacks Russia’s Representative Defending Assad’s Chemical Arsenal in The Hague

The reasons behind Russia's decision to remove Shulgin from his post remain unclear, according to al-Souria Net.

On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a presidential decree relieving Alexander Shulgin of his duties as Russia’s permanent representative to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and Russian ambassador to the Netherlands.

According to reports from Russian news agencies, Putin also signed a separate decree naming Vladimir Tarabrin as Shulgin’s successor in these positions. Tarabrin, formerly the director of the Department of New Challenges and Threats at the Russian Foreign Ministry, will now assume the roles of permanent representative to the OPCW and Russian ambassador to the Netherlands.

After a “significant” loss 

The reasons behind Russia’s decision to remove Shulgin from his post remain unclear, but it coincided with developments following a session of OPCW, where Russia experienced a significant loss in membership.

A week after the OPCW session, it became apparent that Moscow failed to secure the necessary votes for the renewal of its membership in the OPCW’s 2024 Executive Council. This marks the first instance where Russia has not succeeded in securing a seat on the Executive Council, which serves as the decision-making platform for the OPCW.

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The competition for the three available seats on the council involved four Eastern European countries: Russia, Ukraine, Poland, and Lithuania. Unfortunately, Russia was excluded from obtaining a seat. Twenty-one FAO Member States were successfully elected to join the Executive Board in 2024.

In response to the election results, the Russian Foreign Ministry commented that, despite not securing a seat on the Executive Council, Russia “will continue to play the most active role on the platform of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.” The ministry attributed this outcome to what it described as “anti-Russian aspirations of Western countries, severe political pressure on their opponents, blackmail, and threats.”

Shulgin and Assad’s Chemicals

Alexander Shulgin has steered Russia’s engagement with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) since his appointment in 2015, concurrently serving as the Russian representative to the Netherlands.

Notably, Shulgin emerged as a prominent advocate for the Assad regime within the organization. He consistently opposed resolutions condemning President Bashar al-Assad for deploying chemical weapons against his own populace. Accusing the OPCW of “politicizing” its mission, Shulgin often decried what he perceived as the organization’s alignment with the “lies and fabrications” of the United States and its allies.

Frequently visiting Damascus, Shulgin engaged with regime officials, notably participating in a Russian-Syrian diplomatic seminar last September focused on the OPCW’s work.

In 2021 statements, Shulgin asserted that the organization’s technical secretariat disregarded approximately 200 notes verbales from Russia regarding alleged provocations by terrorists in Syria. He lamented the lack of responses to these communications.

International investigators have documented multiple chemical attacks by the Assad regime post its 2013 accession to the Chemical Weapons Convention. The regime, however, denies such allegations, asserting full compliance with the Chemical Ban Treaty.

A report by the Syrian Network for Human Rights implicated Russia directly in the regime’s concealment and reuse of significant chemical weapon stockpiles, operating under Russian protection. The report claimed that 29 countries, led by Russia, obstructed accountability efforts and the dismantling of Assad’s chemical program.

Despite the OPCW issuing ten resolutions over the years aimed at eliminating Assad’s chemical capabilities, destroying production facilities, safeguarding victims’ rights, and holding perpetrators accountable, these efforts were consistently thwarted by 29 countries, including Russia. This obstruction, orchestrated by Alexander Shulgin, has been criticized as “shameful,” allegedly emboldening the regime to persist in chemical attacks.

 

This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.

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