The US has “credible information” that Russia “may use chemical warfare agents” to take the besieged city of Mariupol, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last night.
It came after Britain said it was “urgently” investigating allegations Russia had used chemical weapons, after footage showed a soldier and civilians struggling to breathe in Mariupol after an alleged attack on their positions.
The Azov Regiment, a Ukrainian unit with far-right ties that has defended Mariupol since the invasion began, said three people suffered symptoms after Russian drones dropped an unknown toxic substance on Monday.
The claim could not be verified immediately, but UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said: “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.”
Mr Blinken said he was “unable to confirm” that chemical weapons had been used, but added: “We had credible information that Russian forces may be using a variety of riot control means, including mixed tear gas.” with chemical agents that would do so. …to weaken and incapacitate entrenched Ukrainian fighters and civilians as part of the aggressive campaign to take Mariupol.”
In an update yesterday, the Azov regiment said the three victims suffered from “facial hyperemia, high blood pressure and heartburn in the oropharynx and mucous membranes of the eyes” after the attack.
“Civilian exposure to the substance was minimal and the epicenter was far from civilian locations,” she added.
An unnamed civilian victim, believed to be a worker at the Azovstal Steel Plant where Ukrainian forces were making their final stand, said in video released by the regiment that he went out to get some air and found the factory premises covered in smoke .
“It looked like there was white fog all over the factory. It tasted sweet,” said the middle-aged man. “I immediately felt nauseous: my ears started ringing, my heart started beating faster and I felt weak in my legs.”
His elderly mother and a Ukrainian soldier also described similar symptoms.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ukraine’s President, said the reports were being taken very seriously but did not say they had been confirmed.
Chemical weapons were used extensively by Russia-allied Syrian government forces during that country’s civil war in the 2010s, but not by Russia itself.
James Heappey, the UK Armed Forces Secretary, told Sky News: “There are some things that are beyond discretion and the use of chemical weapons will provoke a reaction. All options are on the table as to what that response could look like.”
Azovstal is the last significant bastion of the Ukrainian resistance in Mariupol, which was largely reduced to rubble by a Russian attack that lasted more than a month.
Eduard Basurin, a spokesman for the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, told Russian state television on Monday that chemical weapons could be used to “fumigate” Ukrainian troops from underground tunnels at the steelworks.
He responded to those comments yesterday, insisting that when he spoke of “chemical defense forces” he meant forces using flamethrowers.
“Whatever they came up with — that’s their problem,” Mr. Basurin said of Azov’s claims.
Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko said the latest estimate is that around 21,000 civilian residents of the port city have been killed since the Russian invasion began.
In the meantime, Ukraine yesterday accused Russia of conducting a cyberattack on its power grid, in the first reported such attack on critical infrastructure during the conflict. The country said in a statement that a software “bomb” planted by Russian hackers would go off on Friday, deleting files on all infected computers.
The attack aimed to disconnect substations that would have shut down parts of the national power grid. (© Telegraph Media Group Ltd. 2022)
Telegraph Media Group Limited 
https://www.independent.ie/world-news/europe/russia-may-yet-use-chemical-weapons-says-us-as-drone-poison-claims-probed-in-mariupol-41548486.html Russia may still use chemical weapons, US says as drone poison claims probed in Mariupol