Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said Britain was urgently looking into reports from Mariupol, as a UK minister warned: “The use of chemical weapons is abhorrent, it crosses a line and all options are on the table for how we respond.”
Britain is “urgently working” to verify reports that Russian forces may have launched a chemical weapons attack in Ukraine, the British Foreign Secretary said.
Liz Truss was one of the first senior Western politicians to speak out last night as Britain warned that “all options are on the table” if chemical weapons are confirmed.
It comes after unconfirmed reports from the besieged port city of Mariupol, whose mayor said more than 10,000 civilians had died in weeks of fighting.
On Monday night Ivanna Klympush, a Ukrainian MP, tweeted: “Russia used an unknown substance 1.5 hours ago #Mariupol.
“Victims experience respiratory arrest, vestibular atactic syndrome. Most likely chemical weapons!
“That is the red line beyond which economic despotism must be destroyed. We call for a total embargo on all fuels #RU &Heavy Weapons 2UA now!”
The far-right Ukrainian Azov regiment said: “Russian occupying forces used a poisonous substance of unknown origin against Ukrainian military and civilians in the city of Mariupol, dropped by an enemy drone.
“The victims are in respiratory arrest…the effects of the unknown substance are being investigated.”
Ms Truss tweeted: “Reports that Russian forces may have used chemical means in an attack on the people of Mariupol. We are urgently working with partners to verify details.
“Any use of such weapons would be a callous escalation in this conflict and we will hold Putin and his regime accountable.”
After weeks of warnings from both Western officials and politicians like Boris Johnson, it appears that Russian President Vladimir Putin is preparing to use chemical weapons.
Britain was growing concerned yesterday that Russia could use white phosphorus munitions in the city’s bombardment.
White phosphorus is used for lighting at night or as a smoke screen, but when used as a weapon it inflicts terrible burns.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy last night did not say that chemical weapons had been used, but added: “We are treating this with the utmost seriousness.
Ronaldo Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images)
“I would like to remind world leaders that the possible use of chemical weapons by the Russian military has already been discussed.
“And that meant even then that you had to react much harder and faster to Russian aggression.”
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby of the US government added: “We cannot confirm this at this time and will continue to monitor the situation closely.
“If these reports are true, they are deeply concerning and reflect our concerns we had about the potential for Russia to use a variety of riot control agents, including tear gas mixed with chemical agents, in Ukraine.”
British Armed Forces Secretary James Heappey admitted this morning that the UK still knows “nothing more” than the media reports.
“We have not been able to verify these ourselves,” he told Sky News.
But he added to the BBC: “If so, as the Foreign Secretary has said, those responsible will be held accountable.
“The use of chemical weapons is abhorrent, it crosses a line and all options are on the table for how we respond.”
It came hours after Mariupol’s mayor said more than 10,000 civilians had died in Russia’s siege of his city and the death toll could surpass 20,000.
It comes after the Russian invasion shifted from the gates of Kiev to eastern Ukraine.
A huge offensive in the Donbass region is expected ahead of Russia’s annual “Victory Day” parade on May 9.
Officials said Putin will double and possibly even triple the number of Russian troops in the Donbass as the Russian president resorts to a “scaled-down” invasion strategy.
The European Union said on Monday that further sanctions against Russia were an option.
The President of Ukraine said: “It is time to shape this package in such a way that we do not even hear words about weapons of mass destruction from the Russian side.
“An oil embargo against Russia is a must.
“Any new package of sanctions against Russia that does not concern oil will be greeted with a smile in Moscow.”
Britain has said it will halt imports of Russian oil and coal by the end of this year, but gas will take longer.
https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/uk-working-urgently-verify-ukraine-26691164 Britain 'is urgently working' to review Ukraine's chemical agent claims as 'all options are on the table'