Biden warns Russia will pay a ‘high price’ if it uses chemical weapons in Ukraine

While the United States has so far presented no evidence that Russia plans to use chemical weapons in Ukraine, the White House – including press secretary Jen Psaki – has warned that the weapons could be used in the conflict.

Russia could use chemical weapons in Ukraine or manufacture a “false flag” operation that uses them, Psaki said on Wednesday. The press secretary, lambasting what she called Russia’s false claims that the United States is developing chemical weapons in Ukraine, tweeted: “Now that Russia has made these false claims and China has apparently endorsed this propaganda, we should all be on the lookout for Russia possibly using chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine, or creating a false flag operation using them. It’s a clear pattern.”

She also noted Russia’s “long and well-documented history of chemical weapons use” as well as its tendency to “blame the West for the very abuses that Russia itself is committing.”

The US government previously found that the Russian government used chemical weapons in both the 2020 poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny and the 2018 poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in England. Both U.S. determinations led to sanctions under the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Elimination Act, which requires the president to impose economic and diplomatic sanctions if it is determined that a country used chemical weapons. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned earlier this year of the possibility of Russia carrying out a fake or real chemical weapons attack as a fabricated pretext for an invasion of Ukraine. But his comments came before the full invasion of Russia began.

Additionally, the United States said Syrian Bashar al-Assad, whose regime is backed by Russia, used chemical weapons against his people dozens of times during the war.

Asked about her tweets at Thursday’s press conference, Psaki declined to speculate on speculation about the US response if Russia were to use chemical weapons in Ukraine.

“Well, they have a large biological and chemical weapons program. So that’s a model, but they also have the capability. Although I’m not going to go into specific information, we are looking at all of those factors,” he said. PSAki told reporters.

She continued, “So the goal (of the tweets) was to clarify the inaccuracy of the information and the misinformation that they’re trying to spread and make the world realize that they don’t just have the ability, they have a history of using chemical and biological weapons, and that right now we should have our eyes open to that possibility.”

She declined to speculate on whether there were signs of imminent Russian chemical weapons use in Ukraine.

Pressed by CNN’s Kaitlan Collins on whether there will be a military response from the United States should Russia carry out a chemical weapons attack, Psaki said the current US position has not changed.

“I’m not going to get into speculation. What we’re saying right now is that they have the ability and the capabilities. I’m not going to get into intelligence either. But the president’s intention to sending US military to fight in Ukraine against Russia has not changed,” she said.

Biden stressed later Friday that the United States would not send ground troops to Ukraine.

“We will not fight World War III in Ukraine,” Biden said during a speech in Philadelphia to the House Democratic Caucus.

He added: “I want to be clear though, we are going to make sure that Ukraine has the weapons to defend itself from a Russian invading force. And we will send money and food aid to save the lives of Ukrainians. We will welcome Ukrainian refugees with open arms if they actually come this far.”

During his speech, Biden also thanked members of the House Democrats for their support for Ukraine, noting that he spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday for about an hour. Biden added that he speaks to the Ukrainian president “almost daily.” Biden stressed how important it is for the United States and its allies to act together to counter the Kremlin.

“I know I’ve frustrated you at times, but more important that we move when we want to is to make sure that all of NATO is together, is together — they have different vulnerabilities than ours,” Biden said. .

White House stops short of saying Russia is committing war crimes

The White House said Friday there were “strong indications” that Russia was committing war crimes in Ukraine, stopping short of a statement, which legally requires an investigation before such an assessment can be made.

“We have all seen the devastating images coming out of Ukraine and are appalled by Russia’s brutal tactics. Pregnant women on stretchers, buildings bombed, families killed as they sought protection from this terrible violence. We are also seeing reports of other types of potential abuse, including sexual and gender-based violence,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates told reporters aboard Air Force One.

He added: “These are disgusting attacks. Civilian casualties are mounting. If Russia intentionally targets civilians, it would be a war crime. And as we all see on live television, the evidence is mounting and we document them as they happen.” . There are strong indications that this is happening and that the heinous way in which Russia is pursuing this war will result in war crimes.

US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield has become the highest ranking US official to declare that Russia’s actions against the Ukrainian people constitute war crimes, telling the BBC on Thursday: ” They constitute war crimes; there are attacks on civilians that cannot be justified by any — in any way.”

Other Biden administration officials did not go so far as to state outright that Russia committed war crimes – violations of the international law of armed conflict – and instead pointed to “credible reports” that such crimes were committed and their support for investigations into Moscow’s actions.

Vice President Kamala Harris on Thursday referred to “atrocities” committed by the Russians and said the UN should investigate alleged Russian war crimes. On Friday, Harris said, “We are clear that any intentional attack or targeting of civilians is a war crime. Period.”

Bates said the United States supports human rights activists, civil society and independent media who document, collect and expose evidence of possible war crimes, human rights abuses and violations of the IHL.

The United States will share this evidence with allies and partners and “support accountability” with all available tools, “including prosecution where appropriate,” Bates said.

This story has been updated with additional reports.