Chemical war? Suspected chemical attack reported in Mariupol on Monday

Investigations are ongoing into a possible chemical attack in the besieged southern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol on Monday.

Kafuraha Media cannot independently verify that there was any kind of chemical strike, or how many casualties were caused by any such incident.

Here’s what we know:

Who reported the alleged attack? The reports emerged in a Telegram statement on Monday night from the Azov battalion, a Ukrainian unit defending Mariupol. They said Russian forces dropped “a poisonous substance of unknown origin” from an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) onto Ukrainian military and civilians in the city.

Victims showed signs of “respiratory failure,” and the consequences “were being clarified,” the statement added.

Andriy Biletsky, Azov’s first commander, said on Telegram that three individuals suffered from the effect of the unknown substance.

What did Mariupol officials say? A chemical attack has not been confirmed, Petro Andryushchenko, an adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, posted on Telegram. He said city officials were awaiting additional information from military forces, and speculated that in one possible scenario, the “discharge of an unknown chemical” could be “a test for the reaction in general.” 


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How about the Ukrainian government? President Volodymyr Zelensky did not confirm a chemical attack but warned the possibility of one should be taken seriously. In his nightly address Monday, Zelensky said Russia could be preparing a new stage of terror.

“Today, the occupiers issued a new statement, which indicates that they are preparing a new stage of terror against Ukraine and our defenders. One of the occupiers’ spokesmen said that they could use chemical weapons against the defenders of Mariupol. We take this as seriously as possible,” Zelensky said.

What was he talking about? Zelensky may have been referring to an earlier statement by a spokesperson for the militia of the pro-Russian separatists in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) in eastern Ukraine.

In a Russian state television talk show, DNR spokesperson Eduard Basurin alluded to using chemical weapons to attack a Mariupol steel plant that is a stronghold for Ukrainian forces.

“Azovstal is a factory that was built during Soviet Union times,” Basurin said. “It is made of lot of concrete and iron. There are multilevel underground floors there, so it makes no sense to take this target by storm. Because you can lose a lot of your soldiers, and the enemy will not suffer the same losses.
“So at the moment we need to deal with blockade of this plant, find all exits and entrances — it is possible to get this done. And then turn to, I think, the chemical troops who will find a way to smoke moles out of their burrows.”

What have other countries said? The US has not confirmed the use of chemical weapons in Mariupol, but had previously warned the Ukrainians that Russia could use chemical agents in the city, State Department spokesperson Ned Price told CNN Monday.

In a statement Monday, press secretary John Kirby said The Pentagon cannot confirm the reports but US officials remain concerned about the potential Russian use of riot control agents.

Meanwhile, UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss tweeted about working “urgently with partners” to verify the unconfirmed reports.

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