The United States and the United Kingdom have been investigating the reports accusing Russian forces of using chemical weapons while attacking the Port of Mariupol in Ukraine. According to reports, Ukraine’s far-right all-volunteer military force, Azov Battalion, claimed that 3 of their soldiers were injured by a “poisonous substance” on 11 April 2022. Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy earlier warned that Russian forces could use chemical weapons as they gathered in the eastern Donbas region to launch another assault on Mariupol, where thousands were killed in a 7-week siege. Western nations warned that if Russia went through with a chemical attack in Ukraine, they would take “firm action”. Ukraine said that its early investigations found that phosphorous ammunition was used.
Is Russia Behind Chemical Attack in Ukraine?
Azov Battalion alleged that Russian forces “dropped an unknown poisonous substance” during a drone attack on Azovstal iron and steelworks, the biggest steel plant in Ukraine. They described that affected soldiers suffered shortness of breath, among other minor injuries. One soldier complained that there was a “sweet-tasting white smoke” coming from the explosion area. Another said that he immediately collapsed with cotton legs after feeling unable to breathe. The media could not verify the reports independently, but pro-Russia separatists in Donbas indeed urged Russia to conduct a chemical attack in Ukraine. They informed Russian state-run TV that the remaining Mariupol forces were entrenched at Azovstal, so Moscow should circle around and “smoke out the moles”. However, later the Pro-Russia separatist forces denied carrying out the attack.
Ukraine Asks for More Weapons from the West
Zelensky described the chemical attack in Ukraine as a new form of terror by Russian forces. He called on the Western countries to provide more weapons needed to defend Ukraine against Russia. He said that Ukraine was not getting enough weapons to end this war sooner while mentioning how time and lives were being lost on a daily basis.
The UK said it would not leave any stone unturned in case of a chemical attack on Ukraine. It said that the western response would consider “all options on the table” but did not specify. Previously, US President Joe Biden also warned last month that if Russia used chemical weapons, “NATO would respond”. He further said that the nature of the response would depend on the nature of the attack.
Previous Chemical Attacks by Russia
Before the reports of a chemical attack in Ukraine, Russia had been accused of orchestrating Amesbury and Salisbury poisonings in the UK. The tensions between UK and Russia escalated after a double agent Sergei Skripal and his wife, Yulia Skripal, died after getting exposed to a Russian nerve agent. It was the first chemical attack on UK soil after World War II, and it broke the flailing relationship between both countries. After the incident, the UK and more than 20 of its allies expelled Russian diplomats.