Bombed out hospital struck by Russian military in Mariupol, Ukraine
Bombed out hospital struck by Russian military in Mariupol, Ukraine REUTERS

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said on Tuesday that it was monitoring the situation in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, where Ukraine has accused Russia of dropping chemical weapons, The Hill reports.

“The Secretariat is concerned by the recent unconfirmed report of chemical weapons use in Mariupol, which has been carried in the media over the past 24 hours,” the chemical weapons watchdog said in a statement.

The OPCW noted that, as parties to the international treaty known as the Chemical Weapons Convention, both Russia and Ukraine have vowed to never “develop, produce, acquire, stockpile, transfer or use chemical weapons.”

It added that any use of chemical weapons would be “reprehensible and wholly contrary to the legal norms established by the international community.”

The statement comes a day after Ukrainian forces and officials accused Russia of using chemical weapons in Mariupol.

“Russian occupation forces used a poisonous substance of unknown origin against Ukrainian military and civilians in the city of Mariupol, which was dropped from an enemy [unmanned aerial vehicle],” the Azov Battalion, a unit of the National Guard of Ukraine, said in a Telegram message at the time.

The Pentagon could not confirm the reports, but press secretary John Kirby said in a statement that, if they are true, they are “deeply concerning and reflective of concerns that we have had about Russia’s potential to use a variety of riot control agents, including tear gas mixed with chemical agents, in Ukraine.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned on Monday night that Russia could use chemical weapons in Ukraine and called on the West to impose strong sanctions on Moscow that would deter even talk of the use of such weapons.

"We treat this with the utmost seriousness," he said, though he did not state that chemical weapons had already been used.

"I would like to remind world leaders that the possible use of chemical weapons by the Russian military has already been discussed. And already at that time it meant that it was necessary to react to the Russian aggression much harsher and faster," he added.

Russia recently claimed that Ukraine is running chemical and biological labs with US support.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki later rejected the claims from Russia as "false" and "preposterous," and warned they could serve as a pretext for the Russians to deploy chemical weapons in their assault on Ukraine.

US President Joe Biden then said that Russian accusations that Kyiv has biological and chemical weapons are false and illustrate that Russian President Vladimir Putin is considering using them himself against Ukraine.

Zelenskyy also insisted that no chemical weapons or other weapons of mass destruction were developed in his country.

"No chemical or any other weapons of mass destruction were developed on my land. The whole world knows that. You know that. And if Russia do something like that against us, it will get the most severe sanctions response," he said.