Russia says the United States is planning provocations to accuse Russian forces of using weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Ukraine in an attempt to discredit Moscow’s military operation in the former Soviet state.
Igor Kirillov, the chief of Russian Radiation, Chemical, and Biological Protection Force, made the remarks at a briefing by the Russian Defense Ministry on Saturday.
“The Russian Ministry of Defense has information about the United States preparing provocations to accuse the Russian Armed Forces of using chemical, biological, or tactical nuclear weapons.”
“In March-April of this year alone, the leadership of Western countries regularly made provocative statements about the possibility of Russia using weapons of mass destruction,” he said.
Kirillov said Kiev, at Washington’s instigation, is planning to set in motion at least three scenarios that would lead to the “death of tens of thousands of Ukrainian citizens and cause an environmental and humanitarian catastrophe.”
He said that to date, the United States is “the only state in world history that has used all three types of weapons of mass destruction.”
The Russian general said the Western provocation is likely to target chemical and biological facilities in Kharkov and Kiev, and possibly the Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant, which is under the control of Russian forces.
Another Western scenario could be the use of WMD in the cities of Slavyansk and Kramatorsk, which have been turned into fortification zones, Kirillov said, adding that such a scenario is the least likely.
According to Russia’s Ministry of Defense, another of the Western provocations presupposed “covert use of WMDs in small volumes” to suppress the troops’ ability to carry out specific operational tasks.
Since March, Kirillov said, Western countries have been regularly making provocative statements about the possibility of Russia using weapons of mass destruction. He denounced as “absurd” recent statement by CIA Director William Burns about Russia's possible use of tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine. He said with the modern level of technical equipment of the international system for nuclear tests monitoring, it would be impossible to conceal the use of such weapons.
“If the CIA director doesn't understand this, then he is either unprofessional or he is being misled,” Kirillov added.
Russian troops have liberated the strategic port of Mariupol after some two months of siege.
Since the onset of Russia’s operation on February 24, the heaviest of clashes between the two sides has been focused around Mariupol, located in southeastern Ukraine and on the north coast of the strategic Sea of Azov.
The fall of Mariupol, besieged by Russian troops since March 1, enables Moscow to open a land route to the Crimean Peninsula, which joined Russia in 2014.
Russian forces have also seized control of the city of Kreminna in eastern Ukraine after the withdrawal of Ukrainian troops from the area.
The conflict in Ukraine has provoked a unanimous response from Western countries, which have imposed a long list of sanctions on Moscow. The Kremlin says it will halt the operation instantly if Kiev meets Russia’s list of demands, including never applying to join NATO.