“Global concerns that Russia will resort to chemical weapons in Ukraine were mounting on Tuesday after a separatist spokesman suggested to a Russian television audience that separatists might use chemicals against Ukrainian soldiers inside a giant steel plant in Mariupol.” to smoke them out of there. “
Eduard Basurin, who said 80% of the port of Mariupol had been “liberated” by Russian-backed separatists, was later quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying that separatist forces “have not used any chemical weapons in Mariupol.” The comment came after a Ukrainian unit defending Mariupol claimed without providing evidence that a drone had dropped a toxic substance at its positions.
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby called the reports on the use of chemical weapons “deeply worrying”. British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said officials were working “quickly” to investigate what she called “a sharp escalation” of the war.
“One of the spokesmen for the attackers said they were considering using chemical weapons against Mariupol’s defenders,” said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. “We take it very seriously. I would like to remind world leaders that a possible use of chemical weapons had already been discussed by the Russian military.”
Chemical weapons or not, the world should be prepared for a barbaric attack by Russian troops in eastern Ukraine, Kirby said.
“Unfortunately, I think we can all expect that the same brutal tactics, the same disregard for civilian life and civilian infrastructure are likely to continue, while now focusing on a more geographically delimited area of the Donbas,” Kirby said.
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►Asian stock markets fell again on Tuesday as investors waited for US inflation data amid unrest over higher interest rates, Chinese efforts to curb coronavirus outbreaks and Russia’s war on Ukraine.
The United Nations Children’s Agency says almost two thirds of all Ukrainian children have fled their homes in the six weeks since Russia’s invasion, and the organization has confirmed that 142 children have been killed and 229 injured, although the numbers are likely to be much higher.
►Russia has lost 19,500 troops, 725 tanks, 1,923 armored vehicles, 347 artillery systems, 154 aircraft; 137 helicopters and an overwhelming amount of other equipment since the war began, the Ukrainian military estimated on Monday. Russia has not given figures, but says its loss of troops has been “significant”.
Mariupol mayor: Death toll could reach 20,000, Russia hides carnage
More than 10,000 civilians have been killed in the besieged city of Mariupol since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, the mayor said when Western nations warned that a convoy was on its way for a suspected Russian attack in eastern Ukraine. The city is crucial to Russia’s efforts to connect Crimea with the Donbas region, where Moscow-backed separatists have established de facto republics that even Russia only recognized days before the war broke out in February.
Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko said Russian forces have blocked weeks of attempts at humanitarian convoys into the city, in part to hide the carnage. Boychenko also said the death toll in Mariupol alone could exceed 20,000.
Boychenko also provided new details about allegations by Ukrainian officials that Russian forces have brought mobile cremation equipment to Mariupol to dispose of the bodies of the victims of the siege.
European countries are taking steps to ease dependence on Russian energy
Italy will soon begin importing more natural gas over a Mediterranean pipeline from Algeria, Europe’s latest attempt to distance itself from Russia, as Moscow faces construction charges of war crimes. Italy’s largest supplier of natural gas is Russia, which represents 40% of global imports. Neighboring Germany gets a third of its oil and gas and more than half of its coal from Russia.
Europe’s dependence on Russian oil, natural gas and coal had left energy sanctions off the table for fear the whole continent could plunge into recession, although reports of Russian war crimes against Ukrainian civilians have prompted some countries to reconsider. Lithuania became the first European country to completely cut itself off from Russian gas imports in early April.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi told reporters that the agreements to intensify bilateral energy cooperation and export more gas to Italy “are a significant response to the strategic goal” of rapidly replacing Russian energy.
Last week, both the US and the EU escalated penalties against Russia: the US Senate unanimously agreed to ban oil imports from Russia and end normal trade relations with the country, while EU nations agreed on new sanctions against Russia, which include a ban on to import its coal.
Starring: Associated Press