Surge in alleged Russian chemical weapons use reported by Ukraine

According to a statement posted on Facebook by the Ukrainian military’s Support Forces, 715 cases of Russian chemical weapons use were recorded in May 2024, marking a 61% increase from the previous month.

Ukrainian military officials have reported a significant increase in the alleged use of chemical weapons by Russian forces on the battlefield, raising international concern and prompting calls for an investigation.

According to a statement posted on Facebook by the Ukrainian military’s Support Forces, 715 cases of Russian chemical weapons use were recorded in May 2024, marking a 61% increase from the previous month. The report claims that the majority of these incidents involved CS gas, commonly known as tear gas.

While CS gas is typically used for crowd control by law enforcement agencies worldwide, the 1925 Geneva Protocol prohibits its use in warfare. The Support Forces stated that from February 15, 2023, to May 24, 2024, a total of 2,698 cases had been documented, resulting in 1,385 Ukrainian soldiers requiring medical attention.

Ukrainian officials have previously accused Russia of using other chemical agents, including chloropicrin. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that exposure to chloropicrin vapours can cause severe irritation to the skin, eyes, and internal organs if inhaled.

However, these allegations remain unverified by independent sources. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) released a statement on May 7, indicating that accusations from both Ukraine and Russia regarding chemical weapons use remain insufficiently substantiated.

The OPCW emphasized that the situation remains volatile and extremely concerning and reiterated that the use of riot control agents in warfare violates international law.

These reports come amid an ongoing conflict that has seen numerous allegations of war crimes and violations of international conventions. The claimed increase in chemical weapons use, if verified, would represent a significant escalation in the conflict and a clear breach of international law.

International observers and human rights organizations have called for thorough investigations into these allegations. However, the challenges of conducting such investigations in an active war zone, coupled with conflicting claims from both sides, complicate efforts to establish the facts independently.