Chemical weapons have been banned by an international convention since 1993, but apparently not for Russia. Today we will talk in more detail about everything related to this issue.
Since the beginning of the war, an important element of Russian disinformation has been the alleged threat of Ukrainian forces using weapons of mass destruction, which they claim should be stationed in Ukraine. These statements intensified due to the lack of a military breakthrough and were supposed to be a stage in preparation for the use of chemical weapons by the invaders. Such a risk was noted, among other things, by representatives of the US Administration, the President of Poland and the head of NATO. Subsequent statements by Western countries in this regard contained warnings about the political and military consequences of the possible use of these banned weapons.
These predictions came true. Yesterday, the Azov Regiment reported on its official Facebook page that in Mariupol, which is held by the fighters of this particular regiment, Russian troops used some kind of chemical substance of unknown origin. This substance was dropped by orcs from a drone. The victims have respiratory failure, vestibulo-atactic syndrome (circulatory failure). The consequences of using an unknown substance are being clarified. In fact, chemical weapons prohibited by international conventions were used against the fighters of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and civilians of Mariupol.
It is clear that some time is needed to find out what weapons were used and what consequences this may have.
In this article, I will try to tell you what kind of chemical weapons the Russian occupants have, how to behave during a chemical attack, and whether the civilian population should panic.
What types of chemical weapons did USSR and Russia possess?
Why is this point important? The fact is that the invaders are browsing the military warehouses for everything that has been left since the times of the USSR, and they can use only these chemical weapons, blaming Ukraine for this.
After World War II, the USSR taught chemical warfare to the Warsaw Pact countries, Iraq, Egypt, Libya, and Syria, while allied authorities in Vietnam and Afghanistan used Soviet war gases on a small scale. These weapons are widely used in offensive and defensive operations in the military doctrine of the USSR. Its means of delivery are mainly artillery ammunition, unguided rockets, ballistic missiles and aerial bombs. Russia inherited most of the research institutions, 24 manufacturing plants and the entire chemical arsenal from the USSR, officially declared at 40,000 tons, which roughly corresponds to seven trains.
All chemical weapons included old generations of substances: sarin, soman and VX (a total of 80% of the collected weapons), mustard gas, lewisite and their mixtures. Operations involving chemical attacks are still part of the training of the Russian army, which has chemical test sites and at least 18 chemical defense units in a brigade or regiment. In 1997, Russia ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), and in the fall of 2017 announced the completion of the process of neutralizing its entire chemical arsenal. But, it seems, only in words.
Did Russia continue to develop and use chemical weapons after 1991?
There is a discrepancy between Russia’s disarmament announcements and indications that it is working on a fourth-generation chemical arsenal. After 1991, several scientists participating in the program discovered that Russia was perfecting a whole family of neurotoxins, in particular, the so-called ‘Novichok’. According to a former Russian counterintelligence officer, chemist Vil Mirzayanov, several thousand tons of one of the Novichok versions were actually manufactured under the pretext of the declared disposal of VX gases. In 1994, Russia confirmed their development, but assured the United States that they did not have an industrial scale and did not violate the provisions of the international Convention.
These studies were likely continued by the Moscow State Research Institute of Organic Chemistry and Technology or its subsidiaries. Stockpiles of Novichok and dioxins are available to the intelligence and counterintelligence of Russia. We all remember its use against Sergei Skripal in Salisbury in 2018 and Alexei Navalny in 2020. Most likely, dioxins were also used against Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko in 2004, but we will find out about this sometime later, or maybe not. Russia could also use them against some Chechen radicals and al-Qaeda terrorists. In addition, in 2002, during an unsuccessful attempt to rescue hostages in the Moscow theater on Dubrovka, an unknown intoxicant codenamed ‘Kolokol-1’ was used.
What options of employing chemical weapons does Russia have?
Russia, if it does have significant stockpiles of chemical munitions (as Western intelligence has long pointed out), will have a potentially wide range of options for the use of chemical weapons in a war. The risks of using chemical weapons may increase with the failure of Russia’s offensive in Ukraine. The orcs have already tried to accuse Ukraine of working on biological and radiological weapons, so they can fabricate ‘evidence discovery’ and ‘thwart a chemical attack’ on the inhabitants of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions for internal and international justification of the war. It can also use the option of limited chemical attacks, for example, in the Lugansk and Donetsk regions, or even in Muscovy itself. Orcs can use chemical weapons to destroy defenses if the siege of Kyiv and other cities fails. They have already carried out attacks using thermobaric weapons and cluster munitions. Unfortunately, it cannot be completely ruled out that a fabricated ‘terrorist attack’ could justify Russia’s massive use of chemical weapons on the battlefield in order to avoid trench warfare.
As we see it on the example of Mariupol, the Muscovites have already moved to this stage of the war. The unyielding city on the shores of the Azov Sea has been heroically repelling enemy attacks for more than a month. The whole world heard and saw about the destruction of this city and the atrocities of the Russian military in it. But the city stands, fights back, which is why the orcs yesterday took such vile actions as the use of an unknown chemical substance.
Chemical weapons: what is it and how does it work?
As I said, I don’t know if Russia will use such weapons on a massive scale, but it can potentially use them, because it has huge reserves, and its use was already tested, for example, in Syria several years ago. But chemical weapons are very dangerous. Mainly used to provoke panic. It is impossible to predict where the gas will work. It depends on temperature, humidity and wind strength in the environment. As well as on the terrain of a particular area.
I want to briefly describe the main types of chemical weapons available to the invaders. Here are some of them:
- Sarin. Belongs to the group of nerve agents. It blocks communication between nerve cells, which causes complete chaos and paralysis in the human body.
- Another group includes, for example, Chlorine and Phosgene. They irritate and paralyze the respiratory tract.
- Cyclone-B and Hydrogen Cyanide. Another group of compounds that also causes suffocation, but not because it paralyzes the lungs, but it blocks the hemoglobin molecules that carry oxygen throughout the body. This is how cyclone-B or hydrogen cyanide works.
- Mustard gas and Lewisite. This is a group of compounds of general poisoning and blistering action.
- Hallucinogenic compounds are the last group of compounds that I will talk about. These were used, for example, by the Americans in Vietnam. They do not kill, but temporarily neutralize the enemy. But the Russians also have similar developments, which is why I included them in my story.
Some gases are heavy and accumulate in cavities or depressions on terrain. In addition, the set of chemical weapons, as a rule, in any country, including Muscovy, is small. In order to attack people in a large area, you need to drop a lot of charges on them. The gases used are usually of very short duration, so the risk disappears before a large area is covered. For example, sarin is only dangerous for 3-4 hours. There is no chance that a gas sprayed in one place will threaten another. Moreover, it is absolutely impossible that any chemical attack in certain regions of Ukraine would threaten the entire country. Once again, in simple words, chemical weapons are used in small areas.
What could be the consequences of Russia’s chemical attack in Ukraine?
Regardless of the possible scale and options of Russian chemical attacks against Ukraine, they will lead to a change in the dynamics of the conflict. Since gas masks and other means of protection or decontamination are not available to the civilian population of Ukraine, any attack could cause local or national panic. It should be recalled that the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian authorities in the suburbs of Damascus in 2013 came as a shock to the civilian population, which allowed Bashar al-Assad to resume the military initiative and even carry out further, smaller-scale chemical attacks. The lessons of Syria and the impunity for previous attacks could be an additional motivation for the use of chemical weapons by Vladimir Putin. During the war with Ukraine, such a change in the situation on the fronts could be in favor of Russia and, in his opinion, would lead to a mass flight of Ukrainians to the EU countries, on an even larger scale than before. Any use of chemical weapons by Russia and blaming Ukraine for this could also justify further mobilization of Muscovy’s armed forces and society, or even a possible conflict with NATO.
But it should be understood that the mass use of chemical weapons is impossible. For example, in order to massively poison the civilian population of my native Kharkov, the orcs need to drop all the available chemical weapons. And it’s not certain that it will work. But, of course, the danger of using these prohibited weapons in certain areas is possible, so you need to be as prepared as possible for this.
What to do? Just don’t panic. If the orcs use, God forbid, chemical weapons somewhere else, then these will be separate areas of hostilities. That is, in the areas where they failed to break through the defenses or surround our troops. These weapons will not be used against civilians. But having a gas mask at home, or at least a gauze bandage, will calm you down.
How to act during a chemical attack?
I want to appeal to the civilian population of Ukraine. Most importantly, don’t panic, don’t get desperate. That is exactly what the enemy wants.
Chemical attack – what to do if there is no gas mask:
A gauze bandage moistened with a solution of soda or vinegar will help to avoid poisoning. For solutions, baking soda is useful (use during attacks with chlorine) and acid – acetic or citric (in case of attacks with ammonia).
Protection for chlorine: for 0.5 liters of water, take 1 tbsp. a spoonful of soda.
Protection against ammonia: for 0.5 liter of water, take 1 tbsp. of citric or acetic acid.
What can and should be the response of the West to a provocation or a chemical attack?
The reaction of NATO countries to the potential use of chemical weapons will depend on the scale of the attack or attacks, but it certainly will not consider them as a Ukrainian attack. The West has avoided publicly drawing a ‘red line’ on potential Russian action, although NATO is increasingly signaling its nuclear deterrence capabilities in the event of an attack on an Alliance country. In the light of the above statements, however, there is a need for consultations on this issue between the US, Britain and France, as well as at the NATO forum. A factor preventing Russia from carrying out such attacks could be the start of preparations for the immediate departure of a special mission of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to Ukraine, which could collect evidence of possible attacks.
It is also advisable to establish a coordinated communication between NATO, Ukraine and Russia in case of extreme scenarios related to the use of chemical weapons, and to use the existing channels of military communication between the United States and Russia. Regardless of the risk or likelihood of the use of chemical weapons, it is necessary to inform Russians and Belarusians about the true nature of this war and warn the leaders and society of both countries. The world community must understand that modern Russia is a terrorist country, which constantly violates all international norms, agreements and conventions. Yesterday’s attack on Mariupol once again proved that the orcs are international terrorists that are not to be negotiated on anything.
But I am sure that Victory will be ours! Everything will be Ukraine! Glory to Ukraine!