Boris Johnson has said he fears Russia will deploy chemical weapons in Ukraine.
The UK prime minister said the Kremlin was preparing a “fake story” that there were chemical weapons being stored in Ukraine to provide grounds for using them themselves, as he labelled the plan as “cynical, barbaric”.
“The stuff which you are hearing about chemical weapons is straight out of the Russian playbook,” he told Sky News on Thursday.
“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.”
Western officials have been briefing in recent days how they fear a repeat of happened during the war in Syria, which saw the use of chemical weapons.
In a reference to the Salisbury nerve agent attack, Johnson added: “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.”
Johnson was referring to repeated Russian accusations that the US was operating biowarfare labs in Ukraine – a claim dismissed as “laughable” by Washington.
Such assertions in Russian media increased in the run-up to Moscow’s military move into Ukraine and were made as recently as Wednesday by foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said on Wednesday: “The Russian accusations are absurd, they are laughable and you know, in the words of my Irish Catholic grandfather, a bunch of malarkey. There’s nothing to it. It’s classic Russian propaganda.”
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.
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