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US claims Russia used chemical weapons in Ukraine war

  • US accuses Russia of using chemical weapons in Ukraine
  • Russia refutes allegations; denies responsibility for poisonings
  • Sanctions imposed on Russian entities and individuals involved

By employing riot control agents “as a method of warfare” in Ukraine and utilizing the choking agent chloropicrin against Ukrainian soldiers, the United States has accused Russia of violating the global prohibition on chemical weapons. 

This is not an isolated incident; rather, it is likely an attempt by Russian forces to dislodge Ukrainian forces from fortified positions and achieve tactical gains on the battlefield,” the US Department of State said in a statement on Wednesday, which also named entities associated with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and also referred to the use of such chemicals. 

Large volumes of chloropicrin, an almost colourless oily liquid that induces severe irritation to the skin, eyes, and lungs, were reportedly utilized throughout World War I, according to the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety of the United States. 

Although it remains utilized as an agricultural pesticide, the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention prohibits its application in warfare. 

Despite its assertion that it no longer maintains a military chemical arsenal, Russia is under increased scrutiny regarding the alleged utilization of hazardous substances and demands greater transparency. 

Thursday, Russia refuted the accusation made by the United States. “As usual, such declarations are completely unsubstantiated and lack any supporting evidence. “Russia has been and continues to be committed to its international law obligations in this area,” Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for the Kremlin, told reporters. 

In addition to chloropicrin, Russian forces have employed projectiles laden with CS and CN gases, according to information cited by the Ukrainian military and reported by Reuters earlier this month. 

At least 500 Ukrainian personnel were reportedly treated for toxic substance exposure, and one perished from tear gas suffocation. 

On April 24, 2021, Gyundoz Mamedov, the deputy prosecutor general in Ukraine until 2021, announced via social media that the Russian army had resorted to the use of tear gas against Ukrainian forces a minimum of 900 times in the preceding half-year, and over 1,400 times since its comprehensive invasion commenced in February 2022. 

During protests, while civilians typically can evade such gases, soldiers confined to trenches without gas masks are compelled to evacuate in the face of enemy fire or run the risk of suffocating. 

‘Playbook’ of Navalny and Skripal

Moscow’s use of chloropicrin and “continuing disregard” for the CWC “comes from the same playbook as its operations to poison [Alexey] Navalny, Sergei and Yulia Skripal with Novichok nerve agents,” according to the State Department. 

In 2020, Navalny, who perished unexpectedly in a prison colony in the Arctic in February, was poisoned with Novichok. 

Former Russian military intelligence agent Sergei Skripal, who was granted asylum in the United Kingdom, narrowly escaped death in a 2018 assassination attempt that also claimed his daughter’s life. An investigating British police officer became gravely ill while Dawn Sturgess, a woman who erroneously ingested the discarded bottle containing the poison, passed away four months later after mistaking the liquid for perfume and sprinkling herself with it. 

The British government reached the judgment that the attack was “almost certainly” orchestrated by the Russian state. 

Russia denied any responsibility for the poisonings at Skripal and Navalny. 

Three Russian state entities associated with Moscow’s chemical and biological weapons programs, including a specialized military unit that facilitated the use of chloropicrin against Ukrainian forces, have been sanctioned, according to a US statement. 

It added that four Russian firms that provide support to the three entities were also sanctioned.

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The sanctions prohibit American business activities with the designated entities and freeze all assets owned by these entities in the United States. 

In a separate development, the United States Treasury levied sanctions against two individuals and three entities that were involved in the procurement of supplies for Russian military institutes that were engaged in chemical and biological weapons programs. 

Several new sanctions were imposed on Russia in retaliation for its invasion of Ukraine. 

The CWC prohibits both the manufacture and application of chemical weapons. Additionally, the convention mandates that the 193 ratifying countries, including Russia and the United States, eliminate any remaining stocks of prohibited compounds. 

Conflicting accusations of treaty violations have been levelled between Russia and Ukraine during meetings of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). 

The organization stated in 2022 that it was troubled by allegations that Russia had attacked the port of Mariupol using chemical weapons, but it has not been formally requested to launch an investigation into the use of prohibited substances in Ukraine. 

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