Nato concerned Russia could stage 'false flag' chemical weapons attack

Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also urges China to condemn Russia's invasion of Ukraine

Jens Stoltenberg refused to speculate on whether the use of chemical weapons by Russia would trigger a military response from Nato. EPA

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Nato is concerned that Moscow could carry out a "false flag" chemical weapons attack in Ukraine, the head of the military alliance said.

Jens Stoltenberg, speaking ahead of an extraordinary meeting of Nato defence ministers, also called on China to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine amid reports that Beijing could offer Moscow military support.

“We are concerned Moscow could stage a false flag operation in Ukraine, possibly with chemical weapons,” Mr Stoltenberg told a press conference.

Expanding further, he said that throughout the crisis in Ukraine, Russia had “tried to create different kinds of false flag operations to try to find excuses for the use of force. We saw that in the lead up to the intervention.

“And now we have seen them accusing Ukraine and Nato allies of producing and developing chemical weapons — and that's an absolute lie,” Mr Stoltenberg said.”

“Therefore it also makes us a bit concerned about the possibility that they are actually planning to do that.”

But he refused to speculate on whether the use of chemical weapons by Russia would trigger a military response from Nato.

In recent days, the conflict in Ukraine has drawn ever closer to the borders with Nato member states. Ukrainian forces have accused Russia of flying drones into Nato airspace, while an attack on a military base in western Ukraine at the weekend killed 35 people only 25 kilometres from the border of Nato member Poland.

“When we see more military activities, when we see fighting going on close to Nato borders, there's always a risk for incidents and accidents,” Mr Stoltenberg said.

“And, therefore, we have to make every effort to prevent such incidents and accidents, and — if they happen — to make sure that they don't spiral out of control and create really dangerous situations.”

Mr Stoltenberg said Nato military commanders were in contact with their Russian counterparts to try to prevent such events happening.

He said Nato was “stepping up” its vigilance and monitoring of its airspace, including by deploying US Patriot surface-to-air missiles to Poland near its border with Ukraine.

On reports that China could provide aid to Russia, Mr Stoltenberg said Beijing must join the condemnation of Moscow’s “brutal invasion”.

“Any support to Russia — military support, any other type of support — would actually help Russia conduct a brutal war against an independent sovereign nation, Ukraine, and help them to continue to wage a war which is causing death, suffering and an enormous amount of destruction.”

Updated: March 15, 2022, 4:06 PM