Biden says Russia plans to use chemical and biological weapons in Ukraine | world news

By Pavel Polityuk and James Mackenzie

MARIUPOL/LVIV/KYIV, Ukraine (Reuters) – Ukraine’s military said on Tuesday residents should prepare for more indiscriminate Russian shelling of critical infrastructure, as U.S. President Joe Biden issued one of his warnings the most severe to date that Moscow was considering using chemical weapons.

Russian troops have failed to capture any major Ukrainian cities for more than four weeks after their invasion and have increasingly resorted to mass destruction of residential areas using airstrikes, long-range missiles and artillery.

The southern port of Mariupol has become a focal point of Russia’s assault and is largely in ruins with bodies lying in the streets, but attacks are also believed to have intensified on Monday against the second city of Kharkiv.

Ukraine’s armed forces said in a statement on Tuesday that Russian forces must continue to attack critical infrastructure using “high-precision weapons and indiscriminate ammunition.”

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Without citing evidence, Biden said Russia’s false accusations that kyiv possessed biological and chemical weapons illustrated that President Vladimir Putin was planning to use them himself.

“Putin’s back is against the wall and now he’s talking about new false flags he’s putting up, including saying we in America have biological and chemical weapons in Europe, just plain wrong,” Biden said. at a Business Roundtable event.

“They also suggest that Ukraine has biological and chemical weapons in Ukraine. This is a clear sign that it is planning to use both.”

The Russian Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Biden also told businesses to be vigilant of possible cyberattacks from Russia. “It’s part of Russia’s playbook,” he said in a statement.

Washington and its allies have previously accused Russia of spreading an unproven claim that Ukraine has a biological weapons program as a possible prelude to using such weapons itself, but Biden’s remarks on Monday were among his strongest to date on the subject.

Russia says it is not attacking civilians, although the devastation inflicted on Ukrainian towns such as Mariupol and Kharkiv recalls previous Russian attacks on towns in Chechnya and Syria.

Putin calls the war, the biggest attack on a European state since World War II, a “special military operation” to disarm Ukraine and protect it from “Nazis”. The West calls this a false pretext for an unprovoked war of aggression.

Biden is due to travel to Europe this week for meetings with allied leaders to discuss tougher sanctions against Russia, in addition to the unprecedented financial sanctions already announced. Ahead of the trip, he discussed Russia’s “brutal” tactics during a call with European leaders on Monday, the White House said.

Russia’s siege and bombing of the port of Mariupol, which European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called a “massive war crime,” is increasing pressure for action.

But EU foreign ministers disagreed Monday on whether and how to include energy in sanctions, with Germany saying the bloc was too dependent on Russian oil to say an embargo.

The conflict has driven nearly a quarter of the 44 million Ukrainians from their homes, and Germany has predicted that the number of refugees could reach 10 million in the coming weeks.

Ukraine on Monday rejected a Russian demand to stop defending besieged Mariupol, where hundreds of thousands of civilians are suffering from Russian bombardment devastating their city.

Part of Mariupol now held by Russian forces, reached by Reuters on Sunday, was a strange wasteland. Several bodies lay by the side of the road, wrapped in blankets. The windows were blown out and the walls were blackened. People coming out of the basements sat on benches amid the rubble, bundled up in coats.

Some, however, managed to escape. Around 8,000 people were safely evacuated on Monday via seven humanitarian corridors from towns and cities under fire, including around 3,000 from Mariupol, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister said.

The eastern cities of Kharkiv, Sumy and Chernihiv were also badly affected.

Among the dead in Kharkiv is Boris Romanchenko, a 96-year-old Holocaust survivor whose apartment was bombed by Russian forces last week.

“Please think about everything he went through,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Monday night.

“But (he) was killed by a Russian strike, which hit an ordinary multi-storey building in Kharkiv. With each day of this war, it becomes more apparent what denazification means to them.”

On Monday evening, a witness in Kharkiv said he saw people on the roofs of buildings dropping grenades or similar ammunition into the streets.

A second witness, outside the city, reported hearing louder explosions than on any day since Russian troops began attacking last month.

Reuters could not immediately verify the accounts.

In kyiv, six bodies were laid on the sidewalk of a shopping center hit overnight by Russian bombing. Emergency services combed the wreckage to the sound of distant artillery fire.

The governor of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region said buses evacuating civilians from frontline areas were hit by shelling on Monday and four children were injured in separate incidents.

Ukrainian officials hope that Moscow will negotiate a withdrawal. Both sides hinted last week at progress in talks on a formula that would include some kind of “neutrality” for Ukraine, although details are scarce.

Japan reacted angrily on Tuesday after Russia pulled out of peace treaty talks, citing Tokyo’s decision to join the international sanctions campaign. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Russia’s decision was “completely unacceptable”.

(Reporting by Reuters bureaus; Writing by Stephen Coates; Editing by Michael Perry)

Copyright 2022 Thomson Reuters.

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