Ministers warn Vladimir Putin he must not ‘cross the line’ of using chemical weapons in Ukraine as the Ministry of Defence says Russia will ‘reset and re-posture’ its forces after invasion stalled
Boris Johnson said last night he fears Mr Putin will deploy the weapons because it would be ‘straight out of Russia’s playbook’.
Technology Minister Chris Philp said this morning that using the weapons would be ‘totally unacceptable’ and ‘a barbaric thing to do’.
His comments came as the Ministry of Defence said it believes Russia is ‘likely seeking to reset and re-posture its forces for renewed offensive activity in the coming days’ after its invasion stalled.
The new activity ‘will probably include’ an assault on the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, the MOD said.
Technology Minister Chris Philp said this morning that using chemical weapons in Ukraine would be ‘totally unacceptable’ and a ‘a barbaric thing to do’
The Ministry of Defence said it believes Russia is ‘likely seeking to reset and re-posture its forces for renewed offensive activity in the coming days’ after its invasion stalled
Mr Philp was asked this morning during an interview on Sky News if the UK has any specific intelligence suggesting Russia is planning to use chemical weapons.
He replied: ‘Clearly I can’t comment on intelligence the UK Government may have received, that wouldn’t be right to speak about that publicly.
‘But we have seen in the last 24 or 48 hours what appear to be bits of disinformation published by Russian state outlets, including in fact the Russian embassy here in London, putting on things like Twitter information that appear to be creating a false narrative that the Ukrainians are considering using chemical weapons which is clearly ridiculous and totally untrue.
‘Sometime they do that in preparation. But I hope that is not what they are contemplating. The use of chemical weapons in any theatre of war but certainly one where there are lots of civilians is totally unacceptable.
‘What we have seen the Russians doing in the last two weeks in Ukraine is totally barbaric.
‘We saw them in the last day or two shelling and bombing hospitals across Ukraine, including a hospital which was where new mothers were giving birth to children.
‘What they have done is totally barbaric which is why the United kingdom is determined, as the Prime Minister was saying, to do everything we can to try and stop them.’
Mr Philp added: ‘I am not going to talk about intelligence but using chemical weapons in an area which has lots of civilians would be a barbaric thing to do and I would just say to Vladimir Putin and to the Russian regime not to cross that line, not to do that to civilian populations.’
Mr Johnson said last night that Mr Putin is in charge of a ‘cynical, barbaric government’ and he believes Moscow could resort to deploying chemical weapons.
He also said he believes Russia is preparing a ‘fake story’ which it could use to deny using the weapons and to blame the West.
The Prime Minister told Sky News’ Beth Rigby Interviews show: ‘I will make you one other prediction by the way which is that the stuff that you are hearing about chemical weapons, this is straight out of their playbook.
‘They start saying that there are chemical weapons that have been stored by their opponents or by the Americans and so when they themselves deploy chemical weapons, as I fear they may, they have a sort of maskirovka, a fake story, ready to go. And you have seen it in Syria. You saw it even in the UK.’
Asked if it was his expectation that Russia will use chemical weapons, the premier said: ‘I just note that that is what they are already doing [preparing a fake story]. It is a cynical, barbaric government I am afraid.’
The MOD published its latest intelligence update on the Russian invasion this morning, just before 6am.
It said Russian ground forces ‘continue to make limited progress’ and predicted Moscow will now seek a ‘reset’.
The MOD said: ‘It remains highly unlikely that Russia has successfully achieved the objectives outlined in its pre-invasion plan.
‘Russian ground forces continue to make limited progress. Logistical issues that have hampered the Russian advance persist, as does strong Ukrainian resistance.
Boris Johnson said last night he fears Vladimir Putin will deploy the weapons because it would be ‘straight out of Russia’s playbook’
‘Russia is likely seeking to reset and re-posture its forces for renewed offensive activity in the coming days. This will probably include operations against Kyiv.
Russian armoured vehicles have been approaching the northeastern edge of Kyiv but experts have suggested the assault on the capital has been poorly planned.
George Barros, a researcher with the Institute for the Study of War, a think tank based in the US, told The Times that the Kremlin had given the job of taking the capital to ‘suboptimal units’.
He said the force had been ‘crudely assembled’, adding: ‘The Russians took some of the worst units of the Russian army, arrayed them in a poor way, and told them to waltz into Kyiv.’