Ukrainian Battalion Accuses Russia of Using Chemical Weapons on Civilians

A Ukrainian battalion said Monday that Russia has used chemical weapons against Ukraine's military and citizens, causing victims to develop respiratory failure and other illnesses.

The Azov Regiment, a unit of the National Guard of Ukraine, claimed that the chemicals were dropped via an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) on civilians in the southeastern city of Mariupol.

"About an hour ago, 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 UAV," the Azov Regiment posted on Telegram on Monday. "The victims have respiratory failure, vestibulo-atactic syndrome. The consequences of using an unknown substance are being clarified."

NATO has warned that the use of chemical weapons could prompt further action from the West. Late last month, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that using chemical weapons is a "blatant violation of international law with far-reaching consequences."

President Joe Biden previously said that such an act could be grounds to trigger an intense reaction from the U.S., though he stopped short of saying what that might be.

Ukraine chemical weapons
A Ukrainian military unit said Monday that Russian forces have used chemical weapons against civilians. Above, a Ukrainian serviceman exits a damaged building after shelling by Russian forces in Kyiv on March 12, 2022. ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images

Newsweek could not independently verify Monday's claims. However, several Ukrainian officials also posted about the accusations on social media.

Solomiia Bobrovska, a member of Ukraine's parliament and secretary of the committee on foreign affairs, called on Biden and NATO to respond to the reports.

"The #Azov Batallion informs Russia has used an unknown chemical substance against defenders of #Mariupoland civilians. @POTUS @NATO you announced a strong reaction should Russia use chemical weapons. Time to act NOW," she wrote.

Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine's minister of internal affairs, tweeted about the alleged use of chemical weapons.

"ATTENTION! Chemical weapons are used against Ukrainian defenders in #Mariupol! russia openly crosses all boundaries of humanity and openly declares it, while Ukraine is still asking for heavy weapon," he wrote.

Ivanna Klympush, a politician who is leading the nation's efforts to integrate Ukraine into the European Union, also condemned the alleged actions and called for further sanctions against Russia.

"This is red line beyond which 🌎 must destroy economy of despotism. We demand full embargo on all fuels from #RU &heavy weapons 2UA now!," she wrote.

The U.K.'s Ministry of Defense on Monday warned that Russia might soon use phosphorous bombs as it seeks to increase military actions in eastern Ukraine.

"Russia forces' prior use of phosphorus munitions in the Donetsk Oblast raises the possibility of their future employment in Mariupol as fighting for the city intensifies," the ministry said in its latest defense intelligence update issued on Twitter.

Ukrainian officials alleged last month that in the eastern city of Kramatorsk, Russia deployed white phosphorous munitions strong enough to burn human flesh.

White phosphorous is not considered a chemical weapon under the U.N. Chemical Weapons Convention, but its use is tightly regulated under international law. It is illegal to use on civilians.

Newsweek reached out to Russia's foreign ministry for comment.

Correction 4/12/22, 3:05 p.m. ET: This story has been changed to reflect the correct spelling of the Azov Regiment.