Russia-Ukraine: What are chemical weapons? The difference between chemical and biological weapons – and does Russia have them?

Ukraine-Russia: What are chemical weapons? The difference from biological weapons – did Russia use it in Ukraine? (Image credit: Getty Images via Canva Pro)

Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to launch massive strikes against Ukraine from land, air and sea, despite fierce resistance from the Ukrainian armed forces.

With the use of highly destructive and illegal weapons, such as vacuum bombs, being previously confirmed in Ukraine, there are growing concerns about the possibility of more serious weapon attacks.

President Putin’s spokesman said on Tuesday that the country would only use nuclear weapons if its very existence was threatened, as US President Joe Biden warned of the possibility of chemical weapons being used as part of Russia’s false flag operations.

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The scale of destruction seen in Ukraine’s major cities can be compared to fighter attacks in Syria, raising further concerns about the possible use of chemical weapons.

What is a chemical weapon, how does it differ from a biological one, and why, according to experts, it can be used by Russia in Ukraine.

What is a chemical weapon?

Chemical weapons are weapons that use toxic chemicals through rockets, aircraft, or artillery fire to cause injury, injury, or death.

They generally fall into the categories of blistering agents, choking agents, and nerve agents, the categories of which are determined by the areas of the body that are targeted and affected by various types of chemical weapons.

Perhaps the most commonly used chemical weapon in modern warfare, nerve agents target the central nervous system and cause severe damage when inhaled as a gas or absorbed through the skin in liquid form.

Sarin gas is a well-known example of a nerve agent first developed by Germany in 1938 as a pesticide but used in fatal attacks such as the Tokyo subway sarin attack in 1995 and most recently in Syria in 2013 and 2017. years.

Poisons such as mustard gas, which was widely used during World War I, when inhaled or absorbed cause severe blistering of the lungs and body, and asphyxiants such as chlorine gas can cause respiratory failure by affecting the respiratory system.

Tear gas is also considered a chemical weapon when used in combat, and it and other riot control agents such as pepper spray can legally be owned and used by some countries.

Although prohibited by international law and limited to the creation Chemical Weapons Convention in 1993, a number of states refused to sign the Convention and support the supply of chemical weapons, along with signatories such as Russia.

These are North Korea, South Sudan and Egypt.

How are they different from biological weapons?

While chemical weapons are deployed by aircraft, strafing, or missiles to have an immediate impact and damaging effect on important parts of the body, biological weapons take much longer to affect the body.

Bioweapons are toxins and poisonous micro-organisms, such as bacteria and viruses, that can be used as weapons in mass release, resulting in severe illness, disability, or death.

Examples include toxins such as ricin, bacteria such as anthrax, Ebola virus, and diseases such as smallpox.

Does Russia have chemical weapons?

Although Russia is a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention, ratified in 1997, Russia is believed to maintain a stockpile of chemical weapons.

In 1997, he claimed 40,000 tons of chemical weapons, of which 32,200 tons were nerve gases, including sarin.

Russia said in 2017 that its chemical weapons had been destroyed, but this came after the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) discovered that Vladimir Putin’s rival and critic Alexei Navalny had been poisoned by Soviet weapons. nerve agent known as “Novichok”.

The nerve agent was developed at a state chemical research center in Russia between the 1970s and 80s.

It was also used in the 2018 Salisbury poisoning of former Russian military and British double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal.

Russia used chemical weapons in Ukraine?

Against the backdrop of continued shelling and bombing of Ukraine and the confirmed use of thermobaric weapons, chemical weapons have not yet been used in Ukraine, but concerns about their possible use by President Putin are growing.

It comes after Russian leaders said Ukraine was developing and preparing to use its own chemical weapons, in a statement widely seen as a false flag operation and potentially intended to create a pretext for its own use of chemical weapons.

On Tuesday (March 22), President Joe Biden said that Russia’s struggle to capture Ukraine’s major cities and declare an easy victory could lead President Putin to resort to chemical weapons attacks.

“Putin has his back to the wall,” President Biden said.

“He did not foresee the extent or strength of our unity.

“And the more his back is pressed against the wall, the more severe the tactics he can use.

The US President added: “Whenever he starts talking about what he thinks NATO, Ukraine or the United States is going to do, it means he’s getting ready to do it.”

“Now he’s talking about the new false flags he’s creating, including that we in America have biological weapons and also chemical weapons in Europe – that’s just not true.

“They also suggest that Ukraine has biological and chemical weapons in Ukraine.

“This is a clear sign that he is considering using both of them.

“He has already used chemical weapons in the past and we have to be careful about what has to happen.

“He knows that there will be serious consequences because of the NATO united front, but the bottom line is that it is real.”

Similarly, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said such a strategy would be “straight out of the Russia scenario” in an interview with Sky News on Thursday 10 March.

“What you hear about chemical weapons is straight out of their textbook,” said Mr. Johnson to Sky’s Beth Rigby.

“They are starting to say that there are chemical weapons that are stored by their opponents or by the Americans.

“And so when they deploy chemical weapons themselves, which I fear, they have a kind of disguise — a fake story — ready to go.

“You saw it in Syria. You have seen it even in the UK. This is what they are already doing. This is a cynical, barbaric government.”

Putin has previously claimed that Khan Sheikhoun’s sarin gas attack that killed nearly 100 people in the northwestern Syrian city on April 4, 2017, which was determined to have been carried out by the regime of President Bashar Hafez al-Assad, was staged by the West.

Chemical weapons expert Hamish de Bretton-Gordon told BBC News on Friday 10 March that if Russia continues to repeat its strikes on Syria, the likelihood of chemical weapons being used is high.

“Chemical weapons have been widely used in Syria,” he said.

“The likelihood that they are used in Ukraine, I think, is quite high, because they are painfully shiny weapons, and if you have neither morality nor remorse, you would use them all the time.

“And the Russians are showing they don’t have much of both at the moment.”

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