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Russia may use chemical weapons in Ukraine: White House

WASHINGTON – The Biden administration on Wednesday publicly warned that Russia may seek to use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine as the White House rejects Russia’s claims of illegal chemical weapons development. in the country they invaded.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova this week, without evidence, accused Ukraine of operating chemical and biological weapons laboratories on its territory, which was confirmed by US White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki called the Russian claim “absurd” and said it could be part of an effort. of Russia to form the basis for the use of such weapons of mass destruction against Ukraine.

“This is all an obvious Russian plot to try to justify their pre-planned, unprovoked and unjustified attack on Ukraine,” Psaki wrote on Wednesday. “Now that Russia has made these false claims and China seems to have endorsed this propaganda, we should all be on the lookout for Russia’s possible use of chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine, or creating a pseudo-flag operation using them.”

The US has for months been warning about Russian “fake flag” activities to create a pretext for the invasion. Wednesday’s warning suggested Russia may seek to pretend to escalate the two-week conflict that has seen Russia’s offensive slowed by stronger-than-expected Ukrainian defenses, but failed to do so. stop.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby on Wednesday called the Russian statement “a mess”.

The international community has assessed for years that Russia has used chemical weapons in the past to carry out assassinations against Putin’s enemies such as Alexey Navalny and former spy Sergei Skripal. Russia also supports the Assad regime in Syria, which has used chemical weapons against its own people during the decades-long civil war.

Asked by a Russian journalist about these claims, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said. “At this time there is no information to confirm these reports or the allegations about these types of laboratories.”

“Our colleagues at the World Health Organization, who have worked with the Government of Ukraine, said they are not aware of any activities by the Government of Ukraine that are inconsistent with treaty obligations. internationally, including on chemical or biological weapons,” added Dujarric.

Russia has a long history of spreading misinformation about US biological weapons research. In the 1980s, Russian intelligence spread a conspiracy theory that the US had created HIV in a laboratory. Recently, Russian state media has spread theories about dangerous research at laboratories in Ukraine and Georgia.

Conspiracy theories about US-operated laboratories in Ukraine have been carried by Chinese state-controlled media and are currently circulating on online message boards popular with COVID-19 conspiracy theorists and other media outlets. far-right groups in America.

Filippa Lentzos, a senior lecturer in science and international security at King’s College London, said there is no “American laboratory” in Ukraine. Instead, she said in an email, there are labs in the country that have received funds through a US Department of Defense threat reduction program.

“These are public and animal health facilities owned and operated by Ukraine,” she said.

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Associated Press writer Angelo Fichera contributed to this report from Philadelphia.

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