A U.S. Defence Department spokesman has admitted that they cannot verify the use of a chemical weapon in Mariupol. The claims were made by the Neo-Nazi Azia Battalion and first surfaced via the encrypted app Telegram.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby stated that
“we are aware of social media reports which claim Russian forces deployed a potential chemical munition in Mariupol, Ukraine,” adding that “we cannot confirm [the reports] at this time and will continue to monitor the situation closely.”
“These reports, if true, are deeply concerning and reflective of concerns that we have had about Russia’s potential to use a variety of riot control agents, including tear gas mixed with chemical agents, in Ukraine.”
Ukrainian soldiers in Mariupol claimed “a poisonous substance of unknown origin” was dropped on the area by drone on Monday, leaving several struggling to breathe, suffering from dizziness and headaches.
Footage released by the Azov Battalion supposedly shows victims of the attack, who appear to be suffering from fever, tinnitus and suffering breathing difficulties.
An aide to Mariupol Mayor Pyotr Andriuschenko stated that the allegations of a chemical attack had not been substantiated.
In an interview with The New York Times, he stated “it is absolutely correct information that yesterday from a drone, something was dropped in that area and some chemical things were in it, ”but we don’t know for sure if it was poison or something else.”
Although there has been no confirmation currently, is has not stopped Western nations from hyping up the attack. UK foreign secretary Liz Truss Tweeted that “any use of such weapons would be a callous escalation in this conflict, and we will hold Putin and his regime to account,” prior to verifying evidence of such an attack.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has demanded further sanctions as retaliation to the attack, including an oil embargo. This may prove difficult though, as European countries depend on Russia’s oil supply and wouldn’t be able to fulfil their country’s energy needs if an embargo was enforced.
In light of recent admissions by U.S. intelligence that it’s own information about the Ukrainian conflict has been less that “rock solid”, the Pentagon’s statement regarding its “concerns” about the use of chemical weapons is questionable. Last week a report aired on NBC which featured U.S. officials boasting about releasing misinformation with the intent to
“undermine Moscow’s propaganda and prevent Russia from defining how the war is perceived in the world.” Specifically mentioned in the report were rumor’s that Moscow was plotting to use chemical weapons as fraudulent.