Boris Johnson accuses Russia of preparing for chemical attack in Ukraine

Western allies fear a chemical attack potentially under the cover of a 'false flag' operation

The UK fears the 'barbaric', regime in the Kremlin, headed by President Vladimir Putin, may be ready to use the banned weapons as the invading Russian forces have failed to make the expected progress. AP

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UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of a “cynical” attempt to manufacture a pretext for using chemical weapons in Ukraine.

Mr Johnson said he feared the “barbaric” regime in the Kremlin may be ready to use the banned weapons as the invading Russian forces have failed to make the expected progress.

The UK has already accused the Russian government of war crimes, with the bombing of a maternity hospital in Mariupol being the latest atrocity in the campaign.

Western allies fear Moscow could go further and carry out a chemical attack, potentially under the cover of a “false flag” operation.

“The stuff which you are hearing about chemical weapons is straight out of the Russian playbook,” Mr Johnson said.

“They start saying that there are chemical weapons that are being stored by their opponents or by the Americans, so that when they themselves deploy chemical weapons — as I fear they may — they have a fake story ready to go.”

In a reference to the Salisbury nerve agent attack, he said: “You have seen it in Syria, you saw it even in the UK. I just note that is what they are already doing. It is a cynical, barbaric government, I'm afraid.”

Earlier, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the government was “very concerned” about the potential use of chemical weapons.

“We've seen Russia use these weapons before in fields of conflict, but that would be a grave mistake on the part of Russia, adding to the grave mistakes that have already been made by Putin,” she said.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the world should be “on the lookout” for the Russian use of chemical and biological weaponry.

She said “Russia's false claims” about reported US biological weapons labs and chemical weapons development in Ukraine could be an “an obvious ploy” by the Kremlin to try to “justify its further premeditated, unprovoked and unjustified attack on Ukraine".

Updated: March 11, 2022, 4:09 AM