West Has "Serious Concern" Putin Could Use Chemical Weapons In Ukraine Invasion
There have been more than 1,000 civilian casualties in Ukraine since the invasion by Russian began (Alamy)
It is now a "serious concern" that Russia could use chemical weapons in Ukraine, according to Western officials.
In a briefing on Wednesday afternoon officials said there was now “good reason” to fear Vladimir Putin would resort to “non-conventional weapons” and cited their previous deployment in the war in Syria.
The warning followed the reported bombing by Russia of a maternity hospital in the Ukranian city of Mariupol as the bloody conflict entered its 14th day.
The governor in the Donetsk region said 17 people have been wounded, including women in labour, while Ukraine's president Vlodimir Zelenskyy tweeted images of the alleged missile strike, saying “people, children are under the wreckage”.
He added: “Atrocity! How much longer will the world be an accomplice ignoring terror? Close the sky right now! Stop the killings!”
Reiteraing his call to NATO countries to enact a ‘no-fly zone’ over Ukraine, he added: “You have power but you seem to be losing humanity."
In response Boris Johnson said there are "few things more depraved than targeting the vulnerable and defenceless".
The Prime Minister tweeted: "The UK is exploring more support for Ukraine to defend against airstrikes and we will hold Putin to account for his terrible crimes."
It is the latest report of civilians being targeted by Putin’s forces, after the bodies of 13 people were recovered from the rubble after an air strike on a bread factory in Makariv, a town near the capital Kyiv on Monday.
The UN said earlier this week there have been well over 1,000 casualties since the beginning of the invasion, with more than 350 civilians killed.
This afternoon the Reuters news agency reported that Ukrainian officials believe as many as 1,170 civilians have been killed in the city of Mariupol alone.
But Western officials have warned the situation could get worse as Russia attempts to take control of more territory in the coming days, having stalled in their progress.
"I think we've got good reason to be concerned about possible use of non-conventional weapons, partly because of what we've seen has happened in other theatres," one Western official said.
"What we've seen in Syria, partly because we've seen a bit of setting the scene for that in the false flag claims that are coming out, and other indications as well.
"So it's a serious concern for us.”
Earlier, defence secretary Ben Wallace said the UK is sending more weapons to Ukraine to help in their defensive effort, telling MPs the UK has delivered 3,615 anti-tank weapons and will shortly be supplying a "small consignment" of Javelin anti-tank missiles.
"In response to a Ukrainian request, the government has taken the decision to explore the donation of Starstreak high-velocity manned portable anti-air missiles,” he added.
"We believe that this system will remain within the definition of defensive weapons but will allow the Ukrainian force to better defend their skies."
He also said Britain is increasing the amount of financial support it is sending to Ukraine to £220million, which includes £120 million of humanitarian aid.
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