Disfigured beyond recognition and reduced to rubble, Mariupol is synonymous with the destruction and suffering that Russia’s war of aggression brought to Ukraine. Just a few weeks ago, 480,000 people lived in the port city. Now only a few defenders are left. And even less ammunition. The Russians conquer the city. In doing so, they resort to terrible means.
However, even the Ukrainian public TV channel “Suspilne” reported that there was no official confirmation. The only acknowledgment was that military sources consider the probability of a chemical weapons attack by the Russian side to be “very high”. According to eyewitnesses in the falling port city, victims of the attack would suffer from breathing difficulties and movement disorders.
Petro Andryushchenko, an adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, also stressed on Telegram that “the information about the chemical weapons attack is currently unconfirmed”. Details and clarifications would only come at a later date.
What fuels the suspicion: The Ukrainians have entrenched themselves in the Azowstal steelworks, among other places. Military spokesman for the pro-Russian Donetsk separatists, Eduard Bassurin, said capturing the underground fortifications at the factory site would be too costly. Therefore one should rely on chemically armed troops.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy referred to this threat in his nightly video address – and once again urged further intervention by the West. A possible chemical weapons attack should prompt foreign states to react even more harshly to Russian aggression, he said. Russia did not use chemical weapons itself in the Syrian war, but covered up and denied the proven dropping of bombs with poison gas by the Syrian government.
A spokesman for the US Department of Defense said in the night there was no confirmation of the use of chemical weapons. If the reports are correct, that would be very worrying.