Putin’s ‘troops stretched to their limit’ says expert
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The Kremlin called a special emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on Friday over claims Ukraine plans to develop biological weapons. The claims were immediately dismissed by Ukraine and the US as a “false flag” intended to justify Russia’s possible use of a chemical weapon. Western intelligence chiefs believe that, while full-scale chemical warfare is unlikely, the Kremlin could be planning a one-off strike which it would blame on Kyiv.
Technology Minister Chris Philp told Times Radio on Friday that the use of chemical weapons would trigger a “dramatic increased response” from the West.
Moscow claims to have destroyed the last of its chemical weapons stocks five years ago, but two chemical attacks have been blamed on Putin’s government since then.
The first was the Salisbury attack of March 2018, when Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with toxic nerve agent Novichok.
The second attack was in August 2020, when fierce Putin critic Alexei Navalny was also poisoned with Novichok and nearly died.
One of the scientists who helped create Novichok later became a whistleblower and fled to the US in 1992, and has since campaigned to have the nerve agent banned across the world.
Dr Vil Mirzayanov told Vice News in 2018, shortly after the Skripal poisoning, that Putin could deploy chemical weapons against Kremlin opponents.
He said: “When I heard that Skripal and his daughter were attacked with Novichok, I was shocked.
“The agent Novichok was developed only in Russia. So the odds are very high that only Russia could be behind this.
“I felt right away that I, too, played a part in this crime.
“I think that it was a public display of the sort of fate that could await any potential opponent of the Kremlin.”
Russia denied responsibility and put forward over 20 different explanations for potential perpetrators.
However, subsequent investigations concluded it was the work of two officers from Moscow’s GRU military intelligence.
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Dr Mirzayanov explained how the lethal nerve agents work. Just a tiny drop is enough to kill an adult.
He said: “I took part in all of the tests for the new toxic agent called Novichok, which is at least 10 times stronger than any other toxic substance known in the world.
“It strikes the central nervous system and switches off the person’s breathing.
“Then miosis begins, which is contraction of the pupils. That means light no longer enters the person’s eyes.
“Vomiting and constant convulsions. Unstoppable.”
Chemical agents in warfare are strictly prohibited by the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993 which most countries, including Russia, signed.
US President Joe Biden warned on Friday Russia would “pay a severe price if they use chemical weapons”.
His warning came after the White House said “we should all be on the lookout for Russia to possibly use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine, or to create a false-flag operation using them.”
Chemical weapons “are inanimate poisonous substances that incapacitate, injure, or kill through their toxic effects on the skin, eyes, lungs, blood, nerves, or other organs”, according to the Institute for Policy Studies.
Biological weapons, meanwhile, are “infectious or toxic agents (such as bacteria, rickettsia, and viruses) that are derived from natural sources and can cause disease or death”.
Dr Mirzayanov realised the devastation such weapons can cause, and the overwhelming guilt prompted him to leave his previous career.
He said: “Every scientist eventually asks himself why he does what he does. I came to the conclusion that chemical weapons are weapons of mass destruction against defenceless people.
“It started eating away at me all the time, this thought that I’m taking part in a criminal enterprise.”
When asked this week if there is any sign of imminent use of chemical weapons by Russia in Ukraine, President Biden’s press officer Jen Psaki declined to comment.
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