The Pentagon is confirming it is concerned about a report on Telegram that Russia used chemical weapons in Mariupol, Ukraine. "We are aware of social media reports which claim Russian forces deployed a potential chemical munition," Defense Department press secretary John Kirby said in a Monday night statement. "We cannot confirm at this time and will continue to monitor the situation closely." The UK's foreign secretary made a similar statement. As Shawna Chen observes at Axios, "Moscow has a long history of using chemical weapons," and the Biden administration has been warning recently that Russia could be planning to deploy chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has not confirmed the report, which was made by Azov Regiment, a far-right, ultra-nationalist portion of Ukraine's national guard, CNBC reports. He did, however, warn Monday night that, per the Guardian, "today, the occupiers issued a new statement, which testifies to their preparation for a new stage of terror against Ukraine and our defenders. One of the mouthpieces of the occupiers stated that they could use chemical weapons against the defenders of Mariupol. We take this as seriously as possible."
Earlier Monday, Ukrainian authorities had also claimed a drone carrying a toxic substance was dropped by Russia on Mariupol, and that the substance was probably chemical weapons, but that had not been confirmed. "These reports, if true, are deeply concerning and 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, in Ukraine," Kirby's statement continues. Says the British foreign secretary, Liz Truss, "Any use of such weapons would be a callous escalation in this conflict and we will hold Putin and his regime to account." (Read more Russia-Ukraine war stories.)