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US Alleges Russian Forces Used Prohibited Chemical Weapons on Ukrainian Battlefield

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a Kremlin meeting, March 16, 2022. (Screenshot)
May 02, 2024

The U.S. State Department has accused the Russian military of using chemical weapons in Ukraine, violating the international Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).

The State Department has notified Congress on Wednesday that it had determined Russian forces have employed chemical weapons against Ukrainian troops. The congressional notification came in accordance with the U.S. Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991 (CBW).

“The Department of State has made a determination under the CBW Act that Russia has used the chemical weapon chloropicrin against Ukrainian forces in violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC),” the State Department announced. “We make this determination in addition to our assessment that Russia has used riot control agents as a method of warfare in Ukraine, also in violation of the CWC.”

Chloropicrin was first used as a weapon during World War I.

“The use of such chemicals is not an isolated incident, and is probably driven by Russian forces’ desire to dislodge Ukrainian forces from fortified positions and achieve tactical gains on the battlefield,” the State Department added.

The U.S. government’s conclusions follow similar Ukrainian government and media allegations.

Members of Ukraine’s Azov units claimed injuries from an unknown poisonous substance while fighting near Mariupol in April 2022. The Pentagon called the claims “deeply concerning” and then-U.K. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said officials were “urgently” investigating the claims, but no evidence was immediately presented.

This February, the Ukrainian military General Staff claimed Russian forces had employed chemical weapons on 815 occasions since the start of its Ukrainian military operation two years prior. The General Staff said at the time that it was deploying Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) reconnaissance units to collect soil and vegetation samples and munitions fragments to validate their claims.

The Ukrainian military said some of the chemical agents used against their troops included CS or “Tear Gas,” a common riot control chemical. The CWC states signatory nations should not use riot control chemicals on the battlefield but does not preclude their use in law enforcement settings.

In tandem with announcing its determination that Russian forces have used chemical weapons on the Ukrainian battlefield, President Joe Biden’s administration has announced new rounds of targeted sanctions, including against Russian government and military research entities and contractors they allege have assisted state chemical weapons programs.

“We have seen the news on this issue,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday. “As always, such accusations are absolutely unfounded, not supported by anything.”

Peskov said Russia remains committed to its obligations under international law.

The accusations of chemical attacks have gone both ways on the Ukrainian battlefield.

The Russian Ministry of Defense alleged several Russian troops deployed in Zaporizhzhia were hospitalized and tested positive for botulinum toxin type B in August 2022. At the time, the Ukrainian government suggested the poisonings were the result of Russian troops consuming expired rations.

In February 2023, the Russian military said it was investigating new allegations that Ukrainian forces used chemical weapons near Soledar and Bakhmut. The Ukrainian government again denied the charge, insisting the Russian allegations were untrue.

This article was originally published by FreeBase News and is reprinted with permission.