US Takes Action Against Russia for Alleged Use of Chemical Weapons

The U.S. State Department has accused Russia of using chemical weapons during its invasion of Ukraine, with the Treasury Department issuing sanctions related to Moscow’s alleged chemical and biological warfare programs.

The State Department announced in a release on Wednesday that more than 280 individuals and entities were being sanctioned for Russia’s “foreign aggression and internal repression.” Three Russian government agencies and four Russian businesses were among those sanctioned over the chemical weapons accusations.

Russia is accused of violating the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), an international treaty that has banned the manufacturing of the weapons in most circumstances and their use in war for decades. Chemical weapons have also long been banned in combat under several other treaties that Russia has signed.

The State Department specifically accused Russian forces in Ukraine of using the chemical chloropicrin, which is believed to have been first used in war by the German military during World War I. Ukraine has also accused Russian troops of using CS and CN “riot control” gases during the ongoing war.

U.S. Takes Action Russia Chemical Weapons Ukraine
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday is pictured in Novo-Ogaryovo, Russia. The U.S. government on Wednesday accused Russia of using chemical weapons in its war with Ukraine, while imposing several new related sanctions.

GAVRIIL GRIGOROV/POOL/AFP

“Russia has used the chemical weapon chloropicrin against Ukrainian forces in violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention [CWC],” reads the State Department’s release. “We make this determination in addition to our assessment that Russia has used riot control agents as a method of warfare in Ukraine, also in violation of the CWC.”

“The use of such chemicals is not an isolated incident, and is probably driven by Russian forces’ desire to dislodge Ukrainian forces from fortified positions and achieve tactical gains on the battlefield,” it continues.

Newsweek reached out for comment to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Russian Ministry of Defense via email on Wednesday night.

The State Department says that Russia’s alleged chemical weapons use in Ukraine “comes from the same playbook” as the poisonings of now-deceased Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in 2020 and Sergei Skripal, a Russian spy for the U.K., and his daughter Yulia Skripal in 2018.

Russia has denied responsibility for the Navalny and Skripal poisonings, which all used the Soviet-developed nerve agent Novichok. Most international observers agreed that Russian President Vladimir Putin was likely responsible, with the U.S., U.K. and other nations imposing sanctions over the poisonings.

The State Department on Wednesday also sanctioned three Russian prison officials whom the U.S. accuses of involvement in the death of Navalny in prison earlier this year.

Incidents of Russia’s purported chemical weapons use in Ukraine have been reported since the early days of the war.

In April 2022, two months after the invasion began, the mayor of the Ukrainian city Trostianets claimed Russian forces had left behind traces of sarin and other chemical weapons following a brief occupation.

The Russian military seemingly confirmed that it was using drones to drop nerve agents in the Ukrainian region of Kherson during fierce fighting late last year, while Ukrainian officials accused Moscow of using “K-51 grenades with chloropicrin” on the battlefield in January.

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Aila Slisco