The United States accuses Russia of using chemical weapons in Ukraine

The United States has accused Russia of using chemical weapons, including poisonous gases, “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 Wednesday that Russia had used chloropicrin, a “choking agent” widely used during World War I, as well as tear gas, against Ukrainian troops. The use of these gases in warfare is banned 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 driven by the desire of Russian forces to remove Ukrainian forces from fortified positions and gain tactical advantages on the battlefield,” the State Department said. This year Russia has slowly but steadily overtaken Ukrainian defenses in the east, capturing several cities and villages.

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

Anatoly Antonov, Russia's ambassador to the United States, called allegations that Russian forces used chemical weapons “heinous and baseless” in a post on the messaging app Telegram.

Ukrainian authorities have reported around 1,400 cases of suspected battlefield use of chemical weapons by Russia since the full-scale invasion began in February 2022, and that rate has accelerated as Moscow continues attacks down the line of the front.

Major Anastasiia Bobobvnikova, public relations officer for the Ukrainian Army Support Forces, said that 371 cases of suspected chemical weapons use by Russian forces were reported in March, about seven times the number from the previous year .

According to several medics and combat soldiers, the use of toxic agents often coincides with intense periods of combat in which Russian forces are fighting to dislodge Ukrainian forces from well-fortified positions.

This winter, as the battle around the town of Avdiivka in eastern Ukraine was gathering pace but Russia was failing to make any progress, doctors at a frontline stabilization point said Russian forces had used chloropicrin , which severely irritates the nose, throat and lungs if inhaled. .

Olena, 38, the station's head nurse, who gave only her first name in accordance with military protocol, said the effects were horrific, with soldiers experiencing skin burns, vomiting and other debilitating effects that make impossible for them to fight.

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

Although governments use tear gas for domestic law enforcement purposes, it is considered a chemical weapon when used in warfare, according to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, an implementing body of the Chemical Weapons Convention. Civilians usually manage to 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, 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 war began.

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

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 had said on social media that they were lobbing K-51 aerosol grenades filled with CS gas by drones over Ukrainian territories. positions.

The State Department said Russia's failure to comply with its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention “stems from the same pattern” as its operations to poison Aleksei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader who died in a Russian prison in February, and Sergei Skripal, a former Russian. he spies that he double-crossed Britain, with the Novichok nerve agents.

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

Marco Santora, Carlotta Gallo AND Oleksandr Chubko contributed to the reporting.

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