News about Ukraine live: Chemical attack would ‘change’ the nature of conflict – as Truss says Putin ‘responsible’ | World news

By Deborah Haynes, Editor of Security and Defense

The UK is working “urgently” to verify details following unconfirmed reports from Russia using chemical agents in an attack on a besieged city in Ukraine, the foreign secretary said.

Liz Truss said any confirmed use of such weapons in Mariupol would be an “escalation” of the war.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the president of Ukraine, used his nightly video address to warn that Russia could use banned chemical weapons, but he did not say that they had already done so.

“We treat this with the utmost seriousness,” he said.

“I would like to remind world leaders that the possible use of chemical weapons by the Russian military has already been discussed.

“And at that time already, it meant that it was necessary to respond much harder and faster to the Russian aggression.”

Britain and its NATO allies have repeatedly warned that any move by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s troops to deploy chemical weapons would change the nature of the conflict.

The United States has said it will respond if chemical weapons are used by Russia in Ukraine. The nature of the response would depend on the nature of the use.

Ms Truss chose late Monday night to highlight unconfirmed messages on social media from Ukraine about a possible chemical used against the port city of Mariupol, on the southeastern coast of the country.

“We are working hard with partners to verify details,” she said on Twitter.

“Any use of such weapons would be an escalation in this conflict and we will hold Putin and his regime to account.”

The concern seems to have been caused by an unconfirmed claim by a Ukrainian battalion, fighting to defend Mariupol against a Russian attack, that a Russian drone had used a toxic substance against the city.

However, there is no independent verification of the accusation.

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