The British government has warned Vladimir Putin that “all possible options are on the table” if it is confirmed that Russian forces did use chemical weapons in Mariupol.
The Armed Forces Minister James Heappey told Sky News that the British government had “not been able to verify” the reports.
He warned if it was proven to be true “President Putin should know that all possible options are on the table in terms of how the West will respond.”
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“It’s important to recognise there are all sorts of ways these things could be used from tear gas, which is a riot measure, to utterly devastating lethal chemical weapon systems,” he said.
“I don’t think it’s helpful to be too binary about the situation because these are highly nuanced.
“I also think it’s important to be very clear that there are some things that go beyond the pale and the use of chemical weapons will get a response and the options are on the table for what that response could be.”
Heappey praised the Ukrainian armed forces in Mariupol for their “amazing heroism” amid the ongoing war.
He said, “I just think they are amazing people and they epitomise everything that we’ve come to admire about the Ukrainian armed forces over the last six weeks.”
The Armed Forces Minister commented of genocide in Ukraine, he said the scenes that Russian troops left in Bucha, Hostomel and Irpin were “just appalling.”
“Those are the places we’ve been able to get cameras into. What it must look like, how many dead there must be in the cities that we haven’t yet been able to get cameras into,” he added.
“It’s just the most monstrous loss of life that is a deliberate tactic used by the Russians to besiege cities and impose cost on the civilian population that has remained.”
Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary said these allegations of chemical weapons must be verified “as soon as possible.”
He said, “If chemical weapons have been used as part of Vladimir Putin’s already barbaric and illegal invasion of Ukraine, this would represent an appalling escalation and amount to a war crime.
“These deeply disturbing reports must now be verified as a matter of urgency.
“If true, Putin and his criminal cronies must be held to account.”