Russia’s alleged use of horrific chemical weapons in Ukraine would be a “worrying development” and suggests Vladimir Putin could resort to using nuclear missiles next, an expert told Daily Express US.
Ukrainian military commander Oleksandr Tarnavskyi said on Monday that Russian forces have been using chemical weapons on the battlefield, according to a report in The Kyiv Independent.
Tarnavskyi claimed that on August 6 Russia fired two artillery barrages with a chemical substance suspected to be chloropicrin. The substance can cause severe irritation to the skin, eyes, and to internal organs if inhaled.
Colonel Hamish de Bretton-Gordon OBE, a chemical weapons adviser to organizations working in Syria and Iraq, said using weapons of this nature would represent a war crime and suggests Putin is getting desperate if true.
However, he noted that Ukraine must first provide evidence to back up the claim.
He told Daily Express US: “The Russians have done virtually everything from blowing up schools and hospitals, the blood bank yesterday, a dam and threatening nuclear weapons from the get-go. Using chemical weapons is all in that bracket.”
Chloropicrin is a toxic industrial chemical, which de Bretton-Gordon said would “contravene the chemical weapons convention” if used and would be “yet another war crime to add to Russia’s growing list”, adding that it “shows desperation”.
He said: “It is a worrying development as if they are prepared to use this, nuclear is not that far off.”
The expert pointed to the example of the Russian and Syrian use of chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war, when “they ran out of options, that is when they resorted to chemical weapons.”
He said: “When the Assad regime were completely stuffed, particularly when they were trying to take towns and cities, they often went to chemical weapons and that was usually successful.”
It comes as Ukrainian troops gain ground in a slowly moving counteroffensive, occupying positions in trenches that have been dug up and abandoned by enemy troops.
According to de Bretton-Gordon, it is difficult to hit targets simply using artillery shells in these dug-up positions unless they are “deep penetrating, specially designed munitions”.
But chemical weapons are effective as they can “sink underground” and draw soldiers out from their safe spots.
He added: “Unless you have got gas masks, then it will cause severe irritation and respiratory tract, which will make them come above ground and out of the trenches where they could be shot.
“This is straight out of the Syrian playbook if they are doing it. And the fact that it is a toxic industrial chemical could allow the Russians to deny it.”
That is why it is vital Ukraine collects evidence of chemical weapons and delivers samples to the UN so it “can act”, the expert added.
Concerns over chemical weapon use were first brought to international attention on April 11 when the Azov Regiment, a Ukrainian military unit in Mariupol, claimed a Russian drone had dropped a “poisonous substance” on the area.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said it was “monitoring closely the situation in Ukraine” but never found evidence of an attack with this weaponry.
However, Russia is known to have large stockpiles of industrial chemicals, including chlorine, that can be adapted for military use as was done in Syria.
Russian forces have also been accused of using cluster munitions, thermobaric rockets (also dubbed vacuum bombs), and white phosphorous shells against civilian targets in Ukraine.
Daily Express US was unable to verify the claims made in the Kyiv Independent.
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