Russian forces have dropped a “poisonous substance of unknown origin” from a drone on military and civilian targets in the besieged port city, Mariupol, according to the city’s Azov Battalion. People are reportedly suffering respiratory failure and neurological problems as a result. The Regiment’s report states: “The victims have respiratory failure, vestibulo-atactic syndrome. The consequences of using an unknown substance are being clarified.”
Ivanna Klympush, the chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Integration of Ukraine to the EU, said that Russia had “most likely” used “chemical weapons” in the attack.
The unconfirmed report comes hours after President Joe Biden warned Russia would pay a “severe price” if it used chemical weapons against Ukraine.
He did not expand on what the consequences would be, but ruled out direct confrontation between NATO and Russia.
Russia has denied using chemical or biological weapons during its assault on Ukraine which began February 24.
But RIA news agency reports Russian-backed forces advocating this extreme warfare.
Eduard Basurin, a representative of the People’s Militia of the Donetsk People’s Republic, reportedly said it would be necessary to “turn to the chemical troops” in Mariupol.
Speaking about the Azovstal plant in the city, he said: “There are underground floors, so it makes no sense to take this object by storm.
“Because you can put a large number of your soldiers and the enemy will not suffer losses as such.
“Therefore, at the moment we need to deal with the blocking of this plant, find all the exits and entrances – in principle, it is possible to do it.
“And after that, I think, turn to the chemical troops who will find a way to smoke the moles out of their holes.”
Mariupol has been a key strategic target for the Russian troops since the start of the invasion.
The southeastern port city lies between the pro-Russia breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in the east, and annexed Crimea in the south.
Seizing the city has been a major goal of the Russian offensive and has resulted in the relentless shelling of both military and civilian targets.
More than 10,000 civilians have died in the Russian siege of Mariupol, the city’s mayor said on Monday.
Mayor Vadym Boychenko said corpses were “carpeted through the streets of our city” and that the death toll could be more than 20,000.
He added that Russian forces brought mobile cremation equipment to the port city to dispose of the bodies.
He also accused them of refusing to allow humanitarian convoys access in an attempt to conceal the carnage.
While some have managed to escape from the southeastern city, Russian forces have violated many attempts to create humanitarian corridors.
Deputy mayor Serhiy Orlov echoed this colleague’s concern, telling the BBC the “battles for Mariupol continue”.
He denied reports about a marine brigade that posted to Facebook about running out of ammunition and facing a “last battle”.
Mr Orlov said: “The information about the marines is fake. I don’t comment on fakes.
“The Russians temporarily occupied part of the city. Ukrainian soldiers continue defending the central and southern parts of the city, as well as industrial areas and so on.”