Ukraine’s neo-Nazi Azov Battalion has accused Russian forces of deploying a chemical weapon against its fighters during the siege on Mariupol, potentially creating a pretext for the US and its Western allies to step up efforts to punish Moscow over the conflict.
An unidentified chemical agent was dropped from a drone on Monday, leaving several Ukrainian fighters in the area struggling to breathe, according to unverified accusations posted on Telegram by the ultranationalist Azov Battalion.
“A poisonous substance of unknown origin” was used, the militants claimed, allegedly leaving three fighters suffering mild respiratory issues, dizziness and headaches.
However, an aide to Mariupol Mayor Petro Andryushchenko noted that the allegations of a chemical attack hadn’t been confirmed, according to Reuters.
Separately, the Ukrainian parliament accused Russian forces of “firing on nitric acid tanks” in the Donetsk region. “This was reported by the patrol police,” according to a post on the parliament’s Twitter account on Monday night. “Locals are urged to prepare protective face masks soaked in soda solution.”
Western officials quickly pounced on the allegations, warning of severe consequences for Moscow. “We are working urgently with partners to verify the details,” UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said. “Any use of such weapons would be a callous escalation in this conflict, and we will hold Putin and his regime to account.”
In Washington, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said US officials are monitoring the situation in Mariupol. “These reports, if true, are deeply concerning and reflective of concerns that we have had about Russia’s potential to use a variety of riot control agents, including tear gas mixed with chemical agents, in Ukraine,” he added.