Ukrainian forces seized gas brands from Russian troops captured on their soil following warnings from the West that Vladimir Putin might use chemical weapons in his invasion of the European country.
The Defense Ministry shared images of the captured gear, which also included World War II-era helmets and an ushanka hat, showing the dilapidated state of Putin’s army.
The ministry said on Twitter: “The second army in the world is a farce. Team of “liberators”. Do you want us to live like this?”
Western and Ukrainian leaders have issued dire warnings that Putin is preparing to use chemical weapons, and masks issued to Russian troops suggest an attack is likely.
Volodymir Zelensky said yesterday that the threat of Russian forces deploying chemical weapons is “very real”, while the invasion enters its third week.
In last night’s televised address to the nation, the president sarcastically addressed Russian troops and asked where they planned to deploy weapons.
“Where will you attack with chemical weapons?” he asked Putin. “In the Mariupol maternity? In the Kharkiv church? Okhmadit Children’s Hospital?”
“Or in our laboratories, which have existed since Soviet times and work with normal technology, not military technology?” Zelensky added.
For their part, Boris Johnson and former MI6 head of Russian operations Christopher Steele echoed Zelensky’s concerns that Russia could soon deploy chemical weapons amid slow progress on the ground.
The prime minister said that Putin is in charge of a “cynical and barbaric government” and believes that Russia it is preparing a “false story” that it could use to deny the use of the weapons and blame the West.
“What you’re hearing about chemical weapons, this is straight out of your playbook,” Johnson said in a Sky News interview:
“They start saying that there are chemical weapons that have been stockpiled by their opponents or by the Americans, and therefore when they deploy chemical weapons themselves, as I am afraid, they have a kind of maskirovka, a false story, ready to go. And you’ve seen it in Syria. You saw it even in the UK”, the British leader was dispatched.
Johnson’s reading builds on the fact that Russia on Thursday accused Ukraine of preparing a chemical weapons attack without any evidence, which British officials fear could be used as a pretext for its own attack.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova he claimed that Ukraine was running chemical and biological weapons laboratories with the support of the United States, accusations that the West has rejected.
“Moscow is officially committed to the destruction of its chemical weapons stockpiles under various international treaties and has not used the weapons in combat for decades,” Zakharova said.
The Soviets were last accused of using them during the invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s.
But Russia used the deadly Novichok poison in 2018 in an attempt to assassinate spy Sergei Skripal who lives in Salisbury, England. And he is suspected of using a similar poison against opposition leader Navalny in 2020.
Moscow has also offered diplomatic cover for the Syrian use of chemical agents, for example, toaccusing the West of being behind the 2017 attack on Khan Shaykhun with sarin or a similar nerve agent.
According to Steele, the former head of Russian operations at MI6, Putin has “grossly miscalculated” the invasion and that his regime would not survive in the long runAs oligarchs and ordinary citizens begin to feel the impact of sanctions, the Russian leader would likely escalate violence in the short term.
“As the Russian military becomes bogged down, more desperate and clearly falling short of its objectives militarily, it is likely to see more indiscriminate killing and bombing and possibly the use of a chemical weapon.”Steele said.
Meanwhile, White House press secretary Jen Psaki declined to comment on whether such indiscriminate chemical attacks would trigger a US intervention.
“I am not going to go into hypotheses”said.
“What we are saying right now is that they have the ability and the capabilities. I’m not going to go into intelligence either. But the president’s intention to send the US military to fight in Ukraine against Russia has not changed.he added.
When asked again, he refused to threaten Moscow, saying the goal was to prevent the conflict from escalating into a world war.
“I will not go into red lines from here”said.
Other Western officials expressed concern that Putin may next resort to using “unconventional weapons”, such as chemical weapons, in the conflict.
An official who spoke to the Daily Mail on condition of anonymity said: “I think we have good reason to be concerned about the potential use of unconventional weapons, in part because of what we’ve seen happen in other theaters.”
“As I mentioned before, for example, what we’ve seen in Syria, partly because we’ve seen a little bit of preparation for that in the false flag claims that are coming out, and also other indications,” added the source.
US intelligence chiefs denounced what they said was a classic Russian disinformation campaign accusing Washington of backing bioweapons labs.
CIA Director Bill Burns and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said that there was no evidence that Ukraine was developing weapons of mass destruction.
Instead, they joined the chorus of warnings that Moscow might be preparing a false narrative before unleashing its own chemical arsenal.
“I think it underscores the concern that we all need to focus on those kinds of issues, whether it’s the potential for the use of chemical weapons, whether it’s as a false flag operation or against the Ukrainians,” Burns told the Senate intelligence committee.
“This is something that all of you know very well, it is a very important part of the Russian playbook. They have used those weapons against their own citizens. They have at least encouraged use in Syria and elsewhere. So it’s something we take very seriously,” he said.
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