On April 11, the Ukraine government stated that it was carrying out an investigation on the possible use of chemical weapons by Russians. The investigation is being conducted in Mariupol city, where Russian soldiers were alleged to have dropped a poisonous substance of unknown origin. Ukraine Deputy Minister of Defence Hanna Maliar stated that the government is trying to understand the situation, and preliminary information found the meaning of a phosphorous munition. Andrii Biletsky, a leader of the Azov regiment, stated that the Russian Federation deployed a chemical weapon on the Azovstal plant held by Azov fighters.
The use of chemical weapons in war is prohibited by the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) which bans their use and requires their destruction. However, it outlaws the use of weapons but does not ban their possession; hence many countries still possess deadly chemical weapons. In a video released by the Azov regiment, victims describe seeing something resembling a fog or smoke during the attack. The victim's main symptoms were high blood pressure, facial flushing, burning sensation in mucous membranes of the eyes, dizziness, and shortness of breath. Such symptoms are similar to symptoms associated with exposure to chemical weapons.
Evidence and Expert Opinion
There is little evidence of the chemical weapons attack, and the initial report described the victims in Mariupol city as having respiratory failure. British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss stated that the UK was urgently investigating the chemical attack allegations, while Pentagon noted that if there was a chemical attack, it was deeply concerned. Some observers expressed scepticism that the available evidence points towards a chemical weapons attack. Chemical weapons expert Dan Kaszeta cautioned against the remote diagnosis urging that such diagnosis is difficult, and questioned why specific medical terms such as vestibule-atactic syndrome had been used.
Bellingcat Investigative Journalism agency Eliot Higgins stated that the symptoms exhibited by the victims as inconsistent with any nerve agent due to the absence of pupil constriction and convulsions. However, Higgins called for the Ukrainian forces to make efforts to recover any munitions used to determine the nature of the attack and the substances used. Both the U.S and U.K are continuing with investigations, and Pentagon Spokesperson John Kirby, noted that the US has concerns that Russians use riot control agents that include teargas mixed with chemical weapons. President Joe Biden told NATO to submit that the west would respond if Russians used chemical weapons in Ukraine.
Investigations on the use of chemical weapons in Mariupol city will be difficult for independent investigators as the city is still besieged by Russians. Only an independent investigation can determine the actual substance used in the attacks. The allegations should be taken seriously considering the brutality of Russians in Bucha where civilians were executed in the streets and their bodies strapped with land mines. Investigations can alter the picture by providing facts, and the Russian troops surrounding the city may be hiding crimes similar to what was witnessed in Bucha cities.
Military Veteran and Chief Executive for Intelligence at Sibylline Justin Crump stated that chemical weapons might have been used on a small scale to force Ukraine troops to surrender the city. The fight for a key Ukraine port city, Mariupol, intensified with Russians besieging the city but unable to capture it. The desperation may have forced them to use chemical agents on a small scale. The lack of access to independent journalists and experts is complicating the situation. Kremlin has not issued an official response to the allegations of chemical weapons in Mariupol. UK Armed Forces Minister James Heappey said the use of chemical weapons would require a response, and all options will be on the table if such allegations are proved to be true. NATO Deputy Secretary-General Geoana stated that all the alliance would be forced to take appropriate measures if Russia used chemical weapons.
Mariupol Humanitarian Situation
Mariupol city has seen some of the worst sufferings globally, and its capture is the core focus of the Russian invasion. President Putin views the city as a major prize as it would provide a land bridge to Crimea, which was annexed to Russia in 2014. However, the city has become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance, and without its conquest, the war is bound to continue. The situation has created a humanitarian crisis with its citizens trapped in a besieged city. The International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) stated that it could not evacuate civilians from Mariupol by bus. Petro Andryushchenko, an advisor to Mariupol city mayor, said that Russians have no desire to allow civilians to leave the city.
Over 100,000 people are believed to be trapped in the city and are experiencing severe shortages of food, water, medicine, and fuel. Red Cross spokesperson Ewan Watson stated that they are running out of adjectives in describing the horrors the residents of Mariupol have suffered. On April 7th, 2022, Russian forces blocked a 45-bus convoy attempting to evacuate people from Mariupol and seized 14 tons of food and medical cities bound for the city. Mariupol city mayor Vadym Boichenko called the city situation a humanitarian catastrophe, noting that residents lack water and electricity due to Russian bombardments. The Ukrainian government estimated that the economic damage from the Russian invasion reached $565 billion, including immediate damage plus expected economic and trade activity losses.
Increase Military Support
The U.S and European allies have imposed sanctions on Russia after the invasion and supplied defensive weapons. President Putin has bragged that Russia will survive the economic sanctions imposed by the west. It is time for more help for Ukrainian as they fight for the battle of their lifetime to save the country from Russian invasion. Ukraine should be supplied with missile and Air defense systems to defend the cities from Russian shelling and missiles launched from the sea, air, and land. Without the missile and air defense systems, Ukraine's cities will be destroyed, reducing them to rumbles, weakening their resistance. Russia should be sanctioned heavily, and a boycott of its oil and gas should be a priority for the European nations to starve Moscow of the money needed to fund their brutal invasion. The allegations of chemical attacks should be investigated and should attract more sanctions and more weapons if proven to be true. The Russian invasion of Ukraine will continue unless military assistance is increased, specifically more lethal weapons for Ukraine troops to launch an offensive to remove Russians from their country. Ukraine is doing well with the limited options to resist the invasion, and more weapons would enable them to end the attack.
Geofrey Robert is an experienced freelance researcher and writer with over five years of experience. He holds a Bachelor of law. His research interests are International law, Peace & Security, Conflict, humanitarian issues, and climate change. He worked as a peace and security news writer for Peacehumanity.org. and also contributed to their periodic PEACE MONITOR MAGAZINE as a peace researcher and writer focusing on the Israel-Palestine conflict.