(PresidentialInsider.com)- The Pentagon voiced concern on Monday over claims that Russian forces loyal to President Vladimir Putin used chemical weapons against Ukrainian soldiers in Mariupol, a move that, if genuine, would mark a critical change in the conflict and the West’s engagement.
The far-right Azov Regiment, one of the elements of Ukraine’s armed forces operating in the critical port city that has come under devastating and indiscriminate Russian shelling in recent weeks, was the first to report the alleged use of some sort of toxic aerosol dropped from a drone operated by Russian forces. Late Monday, the unit said that neighboring troops were having difficulty breathing.
The Pentagon has stated that it is aware of reports that Russia used a chemical weapon in Mariupol, Ukraine, but that it cannot confirm this and would continue to monitor the situation closely.
If true, the assertions are extremely concerning, according to the department, and they reflect concerns about Russia’s potential to use a variety of riot control chemicals in Ukraine, including chemically laced tear gas.
Several Ukrainian military sources working in the fighting zone were also unable to confirm the accuracy of the allegations.
Western intelligence specialists have cautioned that the Kremlin’s deception about US-funded bioweapons labs in Ukraine might be used to justify its chemical weapons deployment in the nation.
If verified, this information would have far-reaching implications. Many Western officials have already warned that Russia’s deployment of chemical weapons in Ukraine would be a clear breach of international law.
Last month, Vice President Joe Biden declared that if Russia used chemical weapons in Ukraine, the US would respond “in kind.”
The White House later clarified that the president did not mean that America would use chemical weapons but escalate its use of conventional force. The administration has focused on supporting the Ukrainians as much as it has on preventing the conflict from spreading across Europe and involving NATO.
Putin has selected one of his most experienced military officers, 60-year-old Gen. Alexander Dvornikov, a veteran of the Syrian conflict, to revitalize the sputtering attack.
Dvornikov was in charge when Russian planes targeted hospitals, and Russian soldiers assisted the Syrian regime in razing cities.
Dvornikov has been compared to “the cleaner,” a character from the film Pulp Fiction, by retired Adm. James Foggo, a former head of US Naval Forces in Europe.
“This person should not be taken lightly,” Foggo said.
He said his track record suggests he isn’t scared to deploy chemical weapons.
According to Foggo, Dvornikov will be under a lot of pressure to succeed and believes Putin has given him orders to attempt to turn things around in any way, and if he fails, you can bet his head will be chopped off.