NATO to send protective equipment to Ukraine as Putin issues chemical weapon threat

Ukraine: Prospect of chemical weapons addressed by Stoltenberg

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The alliance said it will double how many battle groups are stationed on its eastern border, following a summit on Thursday. Leaders gathered in Brussels would respond “in kind” if the Russian President did use any form of chemical weapons in Ukraine.

US President Joe Biden, when asked whether NATO would take military action in such a case, responded: “It would trigger a response in kind.

“You’re asking whether NATO would cross… we’d make that decision at the time.”

He then commented: “The nature of the response will depend on the nature of the use.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson added the consequences of deploying chemical weapons would be “catastrophic” for Vladimir Putin.

He said: “When the Russians start doing this stuff [saying] ‘there are factories in Ukraine producing American biological weaponry’, you know that that is a prelude to a false flag operation and they could well do something.”

He added: “But I think it will be a profound and a disastrous mistake for Putin, were he to do that.

“I think it would be catastrophic for him if he were to do that. And I think that he understands that.”

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, shared the opinions of the UK and US leaders.

He said: “We are concerned partly because we see the rhetoric and we see that Russia is trying to create some kind of pretext accusing Ukraine, the United States and NATO allies of preparing to use chemical and biological weapons.”

NATO officials have said they have not yet seen any “direct” intelligence that Russian forces are using, or are gearing up to use, chemical weapons.

But they stressed that the rhetoric used by the Kremlin has been a cause for deep concern.

One western official remarked: “Putin tends to do the things he talks about.

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“He also tends to do what he says other people are about to do.

“There is protective equipment we can supply to Ukrainians such as clothing, wash-up kits, detection kits.”

Mr Stoltenberg told the media that NATO forces would be beefed up “from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea”, but the use of chemical weapons would redraw the battle lines in the war.

At the summit, leaders listened to an impassioned address from Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, who once again called for a NATO-backed no-fly zone over Ukraine.

Western leaders have refused to back demands for a no-fly zone, saying it could escalate the conflict into a fully-fledged third world war.

Mr Stoltenberg has previously said “the only way to implement a no-fly zone is to send NATO planes — fighter planes — into Ukrainian airspace, and then impose that no-fly zone by shooting down Russian planes.”

He continued: “If we did that, we’ll end up with something that could end in a full-fledged war in Europe involving many more countries and causing much more human suffering.”

Following Mr Zelensky’s message, Mr Johnson said: “We’re looking at what we can do to help but I’ve got to tell you, logistically at the moment it looks very difficult both with armour and with jets.

“We’re very conscious of what he’s asking for at the moment.

“We’re looking at the equipment that we think is more immediately valuable: missiles that will enable the Ukrainians to protect themselves against bombardment from the air, but also to deal with the Grad rocket launchers, the Russian heavy artillery that is dealing such death and destruction in the cities.”

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