Russia’s recent failures have sparked fears that the Kremlin could escalate the war into catastrophic territory by using chemical weapons. Moscow claimed last week that it has obtained evidence the USA is aiding a biochemical weapons programme in Ukraine – something both have fervently denied.
President Joe Biden said last week: “I’m not going to speak about the intelligence, but Russia will pay a severe price if they use chemicals.”
US Defence Secretary Anthony Blinken confirmed this week that officials have “real concerns” that Russia could use chemical weapons in Ukraine.
He said: “There’s a lot of bad loose talk and bluster. At the same time, I have to tell you, we have real concerns that Russia could use a chemical weapon, another weapon of mass destruction.
“This is something we’re very focused on. Unfortunately, we’ve seen them use or acquiesce to its use before in Syria, with Syria using these weapons, using them itself, trying to assassinate its opponents, including in the United Kingdom.”
Russia used Novichok in the UK in 2018 in the attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal.
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Will Russia use chemical weapons?
Gregory Koblentz, director of Biodefense Graduate Program at George Mason University, USA, said: “The US, the United Kingdom and some other European countries have said they have intelligence that Russia is planning this.
“So we have to take it seriously, because we think these were the same people warning that Russia was going to invade Ukraine, which they did.
“But I think it’s most likely a false flag and most likely would be very carefully staged and controlled by them so they can maximise propaganda value and minimise the risk to which they’re going to be exposed.