News from Ukraine: Chemical weapons are not a ‘red line’ for the West – ‘The heart is sinking’ | World | New

Ukraine: Russia would drop chemical weapons in Mariupol

Fears that President Vladimir Putin could be preparing to use chemical weapons in the attack on Ukraine erupted after it emerged that Syrian barrel bomb experts were stationed in Russia. Barrel bombs – crude explosives packed in a barrel and dropped from a helicopter – were used to wreak havoc during the Syrian war and the regime was regularly accused of filling canisters with chlorine and dumping them on held towns. by the opposition. About 50 technicians, all with extensive experience delivering explosives, have been in Russia for several weeks working alongside the Russian military to potentially prepare for a similar campaign in the war in Ukraine, sources believe. European officials.

Their presence is seen as a key factor behind US and European warnings that the Russian military may be preparing for the use of chemical weapons.

Chemical weapons are relatively cheap and easy to manufacture compared to biological and nuclear weapons, but small quantities can lead to massive casualties.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it would be “catastrophic” if Putin used these weapons, and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg made it clear that it would have serious consequences.

Meanwhile, President Biden said such use would elicit “an in-kind response” from NATO.

He added: “We would respond if he used it. The nature of the response would depend on the nature of the use.”

‘Catastrophic’ chemical weapons not a ‘red line’ for the West warns expert – ‘heart sinks’ (Image: GETTY)

A man pushes a bicycle through the devastation left in Bucha

A man pushes a bicycle through the devastation left in Bucha (Image: GETTY)

But one expert urged caution in the rhetoric about chemical weapons.

Dr Alexandra Walmsley, a defense analyst at the Royal United Services Institute, told Express.co.uk: ‘If more chemical weapons are used and there is evidence that they are being used, that’s another crime on the indictment at the final judgment.

“But I don’t necessarily think that would imply a greater involvement [from the West].

“A lot of reports are being made as they come in terms of war crimes and the abuse and use of chemical weapons, so when the equivalent of the Nuremberg trials comes, there will be more evidence.

“But for now, no. People would go ‘tut tut’ but no more than that.”

Unlike the case of nuclear weapons, where atomic rivals are able to “react in kind”, the West has renounced the use of deadly poisons.

Dr Walmsley continued: “We who are in the UK and other NATO countries are not at war with Russia, we support Ukraine – and that is quite important.

“There is this difference between supporting Ukraine and being at war with Russia.

“[The West] would send help for the Ukrainians – be it gas masks or radiation detectors and the like that may come in handy.

“But whatever is sent out right now can rightfully be called ‘defensive’.”

Member of the Ukrainian special forces

A member of Ukrainian special forces watches a gas station burn following a Russian bombardment (Image: GETTY)

Syrian Army MI24 helicopter drops barrel bombs over southern Damascus

Syrian Army MI24 helicopter drops barrel bombs over southern Damascus (Image: GETTY)

There were scattered unverified reports of chemical weapons being used in warfare – including at the steelworks in Azovstal, Mariupol, on April 11 – but Dr Walmsley pointed out that the high-intensity nature of warfare made these assertions difficult to assess immediately.

Tensions have been heightened by provocative accusations leveled by world leaders.

Repeatedly, Putin has made the “false flag” accusation that Ukraine and the United States both harbor chemical and biological weapons – a suggestion both nations vehemently deny.

The accusation is a “clear sign” that a desperate Putin is planning to use them himself, President Biden has said.

“He has used chemical weapons in the past, and we have to be careful what will happen,” he added.

President Biden refers to the fact that the Kremlin is complicit in years of toxic strikes against rebels and civilian populations in Syria alongside the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Mr. al-Assad’s forces shocked the world in August 2013 when they fired toxic chemicals at rebel-held towns near the capital, Damascus, killing more than 1,400 people, US officials said.

The Obama administration has identified the main poison as sarin, a liquid nerve agent that vaporizes into a deadly mist that absorbs into human skin.

Symptoms include unconsciousness, foaming of the nose and mouth, rapid heartbeat and difficulty breathing.

Nerve agents overwork the nerves and muscles of the body, producing spasms, paralysis and death if the body absorbs enough of them.

The iris constricts so much that victims’ pupils often constrict to tiny dots.

Many experts assumed that such a clear violation of international law would prompt Western military intervention because President Barack Obama had previously declared the use of chemical weapons to be a “red line”.

Dr Walmsley added: “My heart sinks when I hear the phrase ‘red line’ because something is going on and then people decide it’s not quite a red line.

“And I think we learned from that in Syria.”

The Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said it was “closely monitoring the situation in Ukraine” and investigating the reports.

Christi C. Elwood