May 2, 2024 - World

U.S. accuses Russia of using chemical weapons in Ukraine

A Ukrainian soldier during a chemical weapon hazard drill in the Kharkiv Region in February 2024.

A Ukrainian soldier during a chemical weapon hazard drill in the Kharkiv Region in February 2024. Photo: Stringer/Anadolu via Getty Images

The U.S. State Department formally accused Russia of violating an international ban on chemical weapons throughout its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

Why it matters: In addition to the accusation, the State Department and Department of Treasury announced sanctions on over 280 individuals and entities connected to Russia's military-industrial base and financial system.

Driving the news: The U.S. State Department said in a statement that Russia has used chloropicrin against Ukrainian soldiers.

  • The choking agent causes lung, eye and skin irritation and potentially vomiting, nausea and diarrhea.
  • It said that Russia's use of such chemicals in Ukraine "is not an isolated incident" and is likely driven by its effort to dislodge Ukrainian soldiers from fortified positions.
  • The chemical is often used in riot control efforts but was banned on the battlefield by the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).

What they're saying: "Russia's ongoing disregard for its obligations to the CWC comes from the same playbook as its operations to poison Aleksey Navalny and Sergei and Yulia Skripal with Novichok nerve agents," the State Department said.

  • The Treasury Department said it targeted three Russia-based entities and two individuals involved in procuring items for Russia's chemical and biological weapons programs with sanctions.
  • Separately, the State Department targeted three Russian government entities and four Russian companies associated with Russia's chemical and biological weapons programs.

Flashback: Earlier this year, Ukraine accused Russia of using chemical weapons, including chloropicrin, in more than 200 attacks in January alone.

  • Russia denied the allegation and, in turn, accused Ukraine of using chemical weapons, which Kyiv also denied.

The other side: Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov denied the U.S. accusations on Thursday, telling reporters that they are "absolutely unfounded, not supported by anything."

  • He also claimed that Russia "remains committed to its obligations under international law."

Reality check: Russia's invasion of Ukraine violated international law.

Zoom out: Ukrainian and U.S. officials accused Russia of deliberately targeting civilians in Odesa this week with cluster munitions.

  • Such an attack would violate international humanitarian law and would potentially be a war crime.

Go deeper: What to know about the long-range missiles the U.S. quietly gave Ukraine

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