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Ukraine investigations claim that a toxin was dropped in Mariupol

This accusation comes at a time when Vladimir Putin has insisted that Russian military operations will not stop until their goals are achieved.

Ukrainian officials are investigating allegations that a toxin was dumped on besieged Mariupol, with Western officials warning that any use of chemical weapons by Russia would be a dangerous escalation of an already devastating war.

Having thwarted his apparent ambition to take control of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, Russian President Vladimir Putin is now building up forces for a new offensive in the eastern Donbass region, insisting his campaign will continue until it achieves its goals.

He said Russia “has no other choice” but to launch what he calls a “special military operation,” saying it is aimed at protecting civilians in the predominantly Russian-speaking Donbass region.

As Ukrainian forces prepare for a new offensive, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said phosphorous munitions – which cause horrific burns but are not classified as chemical weapons – were likely used in Mariupol.

Herald Scotland:

Herald Scotland:

That city is located in the Donbas region and was devastated during six weeks of bombardment by Russian forces that the mayor said left more than 10,000 civilians dead, their bodies “carpeted in the streets”.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Monday evening that Russian forces may use chemical weapons in the city, echoing similar and repeated warnings by Western officials.

Commanders inside and outside the country said they are urgently investigating an unconfirmed claim by a Ukrainian regiment that a poisonous substance was thrown at fighters in Mariupol.

Foreign Minister Liz Truss said the use of chemical weapons “would be a cruel escalation in this conflict”, while Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said it would be a “comprehensive breach of international law”.

Faced with stiff resistance from Ukrainian forces backed by Western weapons, Russian forces increasingly relied on bombing cities, destroying many urban areas and killing thousands of people. In other areas, they withdrew to regroup.

Their withdrawal from the cities and towns around the capital, Kyiv, led to the discovery of large numbers of apparently killed civilians, prompting widespread condemnation and accusations of Russia of war crimes in Ukraine.

The war has also driven more than 10 million Ukrainians from their homes – including nearly two-thirds of children.

There are fears of a wider massacre, amid indications that the Russian military is preparing for a major offensive in the Donbass.

On Monday, a senior US defense official described a long Russian convoy heading toward the eastern city of Izyum with artillery, aviation and infantry support.

Putin insisted during a visit to Russia’s Far East that the military operation would win, and that foreign powers would not succeed in isolating Russia.

Herald Scotland:

Herald Scotland:

He said that Russia’s economic and financial system withstood the blow left by what he described as a “blitzkrieg” by Western sanctions, and claimed that they would be counterproductive by raising the prices of necessities such as fertilizers, leading to food shortages and an increase in migratory flows to the West.

Donbass has been torn apart by fighting between Russian-allied separatists and Ukrainian forces since 2014, and Russia has recognized the separatists’ demands for independence.

Military strategists say that Russian leaders seem to be hoping that the local support, logistics and terrain in the region will be in the interests of the larger and better-armed Russian army, which may eventually allow its forces to turn the tide decisively in their favour.

Describing a battle over a steel plant in Mariupol, a Russian-allied separatist official appeared to have urged the use of chemical weapons on Monday, telling Russian state television that separatist forces should seize the plant from Ukrainian forces by first blocking all exits.

“And then we will use chemical forces to get her out of there,” he said.

But the Interfax news agency quoted Eduard Basurin as saying on Tuesday that separatist forces “did not use any chemical weapons in Mariupol”.

The Ukrainian regiment defending the plant claimed that a drone had dropped a toxic substance on the city. She indicated that there were no serious injuries.

The assertion of the Azov Battalion, a far-right group that is now part of the Ukrainian army, cannot be independently verified.

Mariupol has already seen some of the heaviest attacks and civilian suffering in the war, but the land, sea and air attacks by Russian forces fighting to control it have increasingly limited information about what is happening inside the city.

And the city’s mayor, Vadim Boychenko, accused Russian forces of preventing weeks of trying to reach humanitarian convoys in the city to hide the massacre.

Boychenko said the death toll in Mariupol alone could exceed 20,000.

He added that nearly 120,000 civilians in the city are in dire need of food, water, warmth and communications.

The mayor also provided new details on allegations by Ukrainian officials that Russian forces brought mobile crematorium equipment to Mariupol to dispose of the corpses of siege victims.

Speaking from Ukrainian-controlled territory outside Mariupol, he said he had several sources for his description of alleged cremations by Russian forces in the city.

While massing forces in the east, Russia continued to strike targets across Ukraine in an effort to weaken the country’s defenses.

The Russian Defense Ministry said it used air- and sea-launched missiles to destroy an ammunition depot, an aircraft hangar in Starokostyantinev in the western Khmelnytskyi region, and an ammunition depot near Kyiv.

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