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Chemical weapons watchdog says it is monitoring Mariupol

A chemical weapons watchdog group said in a statement on Tuesday that it was monitoring the situation in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, where Ukraine has accused Russia of dropping chemical weapons. 

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said that it is “monitoring closely the situation in Ukraine.”

“The Secretariat is concerned by the recent unconfirmed report of chemical weapons use in Mariupol, which has been carried in the media over the past 24 hours,” the group’s statement said.

It noted that, as parties to the international treaty known as the Chemical Weapons Convention, both Russia and Ukraine have vowed to never “develop, produce, acquire, stockpile, transfer or use chemical weapons.”

The group said any use of chemical weapons would be “reprehensible and wholly contrary to the legal norms established by the international community.”

On Monday, Ukrainian forces and officials accused Russia of using chemical weapons in Mariupol.

“Russian occupation forces used a poisonous substance of unknown origin against Ukrainian military and civilians in the city of Mariupol, which was dropped from an enemy [unmanned aerial vehicle],” the Azov Battalion, a unit of the National Guard of Ukraine, said in a Telegram message at the time.

“The victims have respiratory failure, vestibulo-atactic syndrome,” the message added.

Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s minister of internal affairs, tweeted about the reported attack, saying, “ATTENTION! Chemical weapons are used against Ukrainian defenders in #Mariupol!”

The Pentagon could not confirm the reports, but press secretary John Kirby said in a statement that, if they are true, they are “deeply concerning and reflective of concerns that we have had about Russia’s potential to use a variety of riot control agents, including tear gas mixed with chemical agents, in Ukraine.”

This comes after top U.S. and Ukrainian officials said last month that they were bracing for a possible chemical attack during the invasion. The World Health Organization (WHO) has also indicated that it was preparing for the possibility of such a scenario.

“WHO is considering all scenarios and making contingencies for different situations that could afflict the people of Ukraine, from the continued treatment of mass casualties, to chemical assaults,” WHO Regional Director for Europe Hans Henri Kluge said last week.

Tags chemical weapons John Kirby Mariupol Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons Russia Russia-Ukraine conflict
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