White House: Russia could launch chemical attack in Ukraine

Russia could be planning a chemical or biological weapon attack in Ukraine – and “we should all be on the lookout”, the White House has said.

Press secretary Jen Psaki said Russia’s claims about US biological weapon labs, and chemical weapon development in Ukraine, were preposterous.

She called the false claims an “obvious ploy” to try to justify further premeditated, unprovoked attacks.

It comes after Western officials shared similar concerns about fresh attacks.

They said they were “very concerned” about the risk the war could escalate, and particularly the possibility of Russia using non-conventional weapons.

This most likely refers to chemical weapons although the term also covers tactical (small-scale) nuclear weapons, biological weapons and dirty bombs.

“We’ve got good reason to be concerned,” said one Western official.

They said this was partly because of what had been seen in other places where Russia has been engaged – notably Syria where chemical weapons were used by its allies.

Ms Psaki said: “We should all be on the lookout for Russia to possibly use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine, or to create a false flag operation using them – it’s a clear pattern.”

Earlier on Wednesday, the UK Ministry of Defence said in a tweet that Russia had used thermobaric rockets in Ukraine. These rockets are also known as vacuum bombs because they suck in oxygen from the surrounding air to generate a high-temperature explosion.

This makes them more devastating than conventional explosives of a similar size, and can have a terrible impact on people caught in their blast radius.

In a subsequent update, the ministry said it was likely “experienced mercenaries” from Russian private military companies associated with the Kremlin were deploying to fight in Ukraine.

The update added Russian mercenaries have been accused of committing human rights abuses in Africa and the Middle East, including in Syria, Libya and the Central African Republic. BBC

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