Several organisations denounce the use of chemical weapons in an attack in Mariupol

Ukraine: possible scenario for new chemical attacks

photo_camera REUTERS/ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO - Emergency crews remove debris from a building destroyed in the course of the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine 10 April 2022

Russia may have used chemical weapons in attacks on the besieged city of Mariupol. Although the use of these substances has not yet been confirmed, countries such as the United Kingdom are investigating this suspicion, which, if verified, would put Russia in the spotlight for having officially committed war crimes.

This fact has been denounced by the head of Ukraine's EU integration committee, Ivanna Klympush, who has assured that in this city there are wounded people with symptoms of respiratory poisoning, compatible with the symptoms caused by chemical attacks

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A little over an hour after the attack, Klympush tweeted about the attack, an offensive that according to journalists deployed on the ground would have caused "a large number of deaths from respiratory failure". 

"An hour and a half ago Russia used an unknown substance in Mariupol. The victims are experiencing respiratory failure and atactic syndrome. Most likely these are chemical weapons. This is the red line beyond which the world must destroy the economy of despotism. We demand a total embargo on all Russian fuel and heavy weapons 2UA now!" wrote Klympush on his Twitter account. 

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In what is now the 47th day of the Russian invasion, Donetsk and Mariupol remain the main scenes of civilian deaths. Russia's new strategy has taken these areas as its main targets for "denazification" in order to annex these territories to Russia and divide Ukrainian territory. 

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It is for this reason that Ukraine's president, Volodomir Zelensky, has declared that "a very tense week" is expected, where the attacks will intensify even more. Regarding the possible chemical attacks, Zelensky said that "the possible use of chemical weapons by the Russian army has already been discussed. And already at that time it meant that it was necessary to react to the Russian aggression much more harshly and quickly".

All this comes after the EU announced a new sanctions package, a move on which the Ukrainian president reiterated that "it is time to make this package such that we do not hear even words about weapons of mass destruction from the Russian side". He added that "an oil embargo against Russia is a must. Any new sanctions package against Russia that does not affect oil will be greeted in Moscow with a smile".
 

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The neo-Nazi Azov battalion under the Ukrainian Interior Ministry has also accused Russia in the same way. According to statements made to the Ukrainian agency UNIAN, 'the Russian occupation forces have used a poisonous substance of unknown origin against Ukrainian servicemen and civilians in the city of Mariupol, which was launched from an enemy drone'.

In this context, Eduard Basurin, a senior official of the pro-Russian separatists in the Donetsk region, said that his forces "could use chemical troops who will find a way to make the moles flee from their holes", he told the Russian news agency RIA Novosti.

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The use of chemical weapons in conflicts

Despite the existence of regulatory bodies that ensure the non-use of chemical weapons in armed conflicts, such as the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), on several occasions the use of this type of weapon has escaped from legality to be used on the ground.

189 countries are members of this organisation, but countries such as Syria and Iraq have suffered the ravages of these attacks. In the context of the Syrian war conflict, then US President Barack Obama warned Bashar al-Assad not to cross the "red line" of chemical weapons. 

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However, a year later Aleppo suffered one of the most dramatic events in the history of this century after hundreds of civilians suffered severe poisoning, caused by the use of sarin gas. Despite warnings from the US, this 'red line' was ignored, with no legal repercussions. 

According to former UK Chemical, Biological and Nuclear Regiment commander Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, "since then, in the Syrian conflict alone there have been over 1,000 recorded incidents of chemical weapons use", attacks that according to Gordon "disrupt all basic functions. They disrupt all basic functions, such as bowel, lung and heart function. They also affect the muscles and the brain".
 

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