A Ukrainian mayor said this weekend that the “remains” of chemical weapons were found after Russian troops withdrew from the northern Sumy region of Ukraine.
Yuriy Bova, mayor of the Ukrainian city Trostianets, said officials found traces of sarin and other chemical substances. Sarin, a clear and odorless substance, is classified as a nerve agent and considered to be among the most toxic and rapidly acting of known chemical warfare agents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“We found the remains of chemical weapons in the village of Bilka—sarin and other substances. We discovered ampoules. The Security Service of Ukraine is currently working on this,” Bova said in remarks published Saturday by the National News Agency of Ukraine. “It is possible that the occupiers wanted to use this chemical to strike Kyiv, Poltava or other cities.”
Newsweek was unable to independently verify these claims.
The mayor’s comments come just days after a Ukrainian battalion accused the Russian military of using chemical weapons against soldiers in the southeastern city of Mariupol. The Azov Regiment, a far-right nationalist unit of the National Guard of Ukraine, reported that three people were poisoned after an unknown chemical was dropped on troops by a drone.
One Ukrainian soldier injured in the alleged attack described an explosion and a “sweet-tasting” white smoke, while another said he immediately lost his breath and collapsed with the feeling of having “cotton legs,” the BBC reported earlier this week.
The reports sent Western nations scrambling to verify whether the claims were true or not. The Pentagon was careful to note that the alleged attacks were unproven, but called the issue “deeply concerning” and that it was “reflective of concerns that we have had about Russia’s potential to use a variety of riot control agents, including tear gas mixed with chemical agents.”
President Joe Biden and NATO have previously warned that use of chemical warfare by Russia could result in direct involvement from the West. Earlier this week, James Heappey, the U.K.’s armed forces minister, said that “all possible options” would be considered regarding a response from NATO troops.
Some U.S. lawmakers, including Florida Republican Representative Michael Waltz, also urged for NATO to become involved if reports of chemical warfare use is verified.
“President [Joe] Biden should have been setting red lines from the beginning with the use of weapons of mass destruction. I believe that red line…that would be the line for NATO to become directly involved. We cannot allow chemical weapons, or God forbid, tactical nuclear weapons, to be the next rung in the escalation ladder that we allow Putin to go to,” Waltz said this week on Fox News.