EU preparing for horrifying chemical attack as Putins war sends tremors through bloc

Ukrainian diplomat calls Europe hypocrites for using Russian oil

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Through its EU Civil Protection Mechanism, the bloc will be creating a €540.5million (£450million) “strategic stockpile”, consisting of equipment, medicines, vaccines and other responses to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) threats. Fears surrounding the potential use of such weapons by Russia have steadily risen as the war in Ukraine has continued, both due to the stagnation of Putin’s invasion and signs from the Kremlin that they may be preparing to strike.

Putin has been known to use chemical weaponry to achieve his ends – from the Salisbury poisonings using the Novichok nerve agent in 2018, to the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny by a similar chemical in 2020. The Kremlin has denied involvement in either event.

More recently, sanctioned Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich and Ukrainian peace negotiators suffered symptoms of suspected poisoning in March after a meeting in Kyiv.

Russia has also accused Ukraine of preparing to use chemical weapons – which some see as a sign that the Kremlin is itself intending to do just that.

Joe Biden stated on March 22: “Russia has a long track record of accusing others of what they are either already doing or about to do.”

Chemist at the University of Bergen in Norway Leiv Sydnes told Al Jazeera that chemical weapons are not so useful against military targets due to their protective gear, but instead are used “to terrify people and to generate panic.”

That a strategy of terrorising civilians may well be on Putin’s playbook was given greater credence after a mass grave of 21 civilians was found in Bucha, a town on the outskirts of Kyiv that was re-captured by Ukrainian forces.

Hundreds more bodies have been found in the town, and its mayor, Anatoliy Fedorak, said on Monday that the total dead reached at least 300. There is no official statistic yet.

The EU Commission’s announcement that they were preparing to respond to CBRN weapons did not explicitly name Russia as a threat of such attacks, but Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides, said: “HERA [the EU’s Health Emergency preparedness and Response Authority] is our watchtower and has been working around the clock to support EU actions through the Civil Protection Mechanism to provide preparedness support to Ukraine and our Member States.”

As an immediate first step, the EU has mobilised its rescEU medical reserve to procure potassium iodide tablets, which can be used to protect people from the harmful effects of radiation.

Almost 3 million iodide tablets have been delivered to Ukraine via the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, with the help of France and Spain.

The EU is also developing a €66.7 million (£55.6million) decontamination reserve comprising both staff and equipment to decontaminate people, infrastructure, buildings, vehicles or critical equipment that have been exposed to CBRN agents.

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The strategy promises to provide “an extra layer of protection and ensures a faster and more comprehensive response to disasters.”

Concerns have also been raised over the possibility of Putin making use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

Putin has ordered Russia’s defense minister and the chief of the military’s General Staff to put the nuclear deterrent forces in a “special regime of combat duty,” meaning the country’s nuclear weapons would be in an increased state of readiness to launch.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said to CBS that the order was an unacceptable escalation.

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She said: “It means that President Putin is continuing to escalate this war in a manner that is totally unacceptable and we have to continue to stem his actions in the strongest possible way.”

Hungarian Professor of Sociology Frank Furedi has called for a stronger “red line” on Putin’s escalation of tensions to fight back against the tyrant.

Speaking to GB News, he said: “Their nuclear blackmailing will always paralyse us.

“Because we’re always worried about escalating the action. But, who is doing the escalation? Russia is doing the escalation in Ukraine.

“So at some point, we need to say that beyond this red line, we will not tolerate the situation to continue.”

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