US accuses Russia of using chemical weapons in Ukraine

US accuses Russia of using chemical weapons in Ukraine

The United States has accused Russia of using chemical weapons, including poison gas, “as a method of warfare” against Ukrainian forces, in violation of a global ban on the use of such weapons.

The State Department said in a statement On Wednesday, Russia used chloropicrin, a “choking agent” widely used during World War I, as well as tear gas, against Ukrainian troops. The use of these gases for military purposes is prohibited by the Chemical Weapons Convention, an arms control treaty ratified by more than 150 countries, including Russia.

“The use of such chemicals is not an isolated incident and is likely motivated by the desire of Russian forces to dislodge Ukrainian forces from fortified positions and achieve tactical gains on the battlefield,” the Department said of state. This year, Russia has slowly but surely broken through Ukraine’s defenses in the east, capturing several towns and villages.

The State Department also said the United States would impose sanctions on three state entities linked to Russia’s chemical and biological weapons programs and four companies that supported them.

Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s ambassador to the United States, called accusations that Russian forces used chemical weapons “abhorrent and baseless.” post to Telegram messaging app.

Ukrainian authorities have reported about 1,400 cases of suspected battlefield use of chemical weapons by Russia since the start of the full-scale invasion in February 2022, and say the pace has accelerated as that Moscow continued its attacks along the front line.

Maj. Anastasiia Bobobvnikova, public affairs officer of Ukraine’s Army Support Forces, said 371 cases of suspected use of chemical weapons by Russian forces were reported in March, about seven times more than the last year.

The use of toxic agents often coincides with periods of intense fighting in which Russian forces attempt to dislodge Ukrainian troops from their well-fortified positions, according to several medics and combat soldiers.

This winter, as fighting around the eastern Ukrainian town of Avdiivka intensified but Russia failed to make progress, doctors at a frontline stabilization point said Russian forces used chloropicrin, which severely irritates the nose, throat and lungs when inhaled. .

Olena, 38, the station’s head nurse, who gave only her first name in line with military protocol, said the effects were horrific, with soldiers feeling skin burns and vomiting and suffering other debilitating effects that prevented them from fighting.

Major Bobobvnikova said most of the chemicals used in the attacks had been identified as CS and CN tear gas, the most commonly used by riot police to control crowds.

Although governments use tear gas for domestic law enforcement purposes, it is considered a chemical weapon when used in war, according to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, an implementing agency of the Chemical Weapons Convention. Civilians can usually escape tear gas during protests, but soldiers in the trenches have no choice but to flee under enemy fire or risk being suffocated.

Gyunduz Mamedov, former Deputy Prosecutor General of Ukraine, said last week that the Russian military has used tear gas against Ukrainian troops at least 900 times in the past six months, with more than 1,400 incidents reported since the start of the war.

Major Bobobvnikova said the chemicals were usually contained in grenades that Russian forces threw at Ukrainian positions, forcing soldiers from their fortified positions. Ukrainian troops lack adequate protective equipment against chemical attacks.

Rebekah Maciorowski, an American combat medic who was operating outside Avdiivka – a Ukrainian stronghold captured by Russian forces in February – said gas was repeatedly used against her unit and that the 200 masks she received had been distributed had already been put in place. to use.

A soldier who asked to be identified only by his call sign, Croissant, because his parents live in occupied territory, was one of three soldiers from the Ukrainian 59th Brigade occupying a position southwest of Avdiivka end February when he said a canister had been dropped on them.

When the object fell, he said, they did not hear the usual explosion a grenade would produce and, fearing it might be gas, he and his comrades quickly put on their masks gas – but he took a deep breath before putting his on.

“I breathed it in and immediately felt it burning,” he said. “I remembered my training, to close my eyes.”

The 59th Brigade provided evidence which it said was later collected at the scene, showing the canister used to deliver the gas. It was not possible to independently confirm the incident.

The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, reported in December that Russian forces fighting near the southern city of Kherson said on social media that they were dropping K-51 aerosol grenades filled with CS gas from drones on Ukrainian positions.

The State Department said Russia’s disregard for its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention “comes from the same scenario” as its operations to poison Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader who died in a Russian prison in February, and Sergei Skripal, a former Russian. spy who acted as a double agent for Britain, with Novichok nerve agents.

Foreign ministers gathered at a Group of 7 summit last month said in a statement that “any use of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons by Russia would result in serious consequences.”

Carlotta Gall, Alexandre Tchoubko and Liubov Sholudko contributed reporting.

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Mattie B. Jiménez

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