WASHINGTON — U.S. officials say they are concerned Russia could be preparing to use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine after the Russian Defense Ministry accused Ukraine of possibly planning a false-flag chemical weapon attack.
An administration official said the U.S. is worried that the Russians are making the claim “to justify a false-flag operation or them using chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine themselves.”
“We do believe that we should be on the lookout for Russia to possibly use chemical or biological weapons,” the official said. The U.S. is also concerned that Russia could be making the claim to justify its continued invasion of Ukraine.
In a false-flag operation, one side of a conflict commits an act and tries to make it appear that the other side committed it, often to justify an attack on the other side.
Earlier Wednesday, the Russian Defense Ministry claimed Ukraine is preparing a provocation using poisonous substances. Igor Konashenkov, the spokesman for the ministry, said the point of the provocation was to blame Russia for the use of chemical weapons.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the U.S. has taken note of Russia's "false claims" and has also heard Chinese officials "echo these conspiracy theories."
"To be clear: this is preposterous," said Psaki in a statement, referring to Russia's claims.
Now that the claims have been made, "we should all be on the lookout for Russia to possibly use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine, or to create a false-flag operation using them. It’s a clear pattern, and no one should fall for it," she continued.
Security and disinformation experts continue to warn about Russia’s efforts to push a narrative about the conflict that seeks to provide seemingly legitimate reasons for its invasion. They have pointed to the war in Syria, where Russia backed the regime of Bashar Al-Assad, as an example of a government’s seeking to blame its own use of illegal weapons on the victims of the attack.
Russia's Defense Ministry said Wednesday that Ukrainians in the small city of Zolochiv brought in over 80 tons of ammonia and are teaching people in the area how to act correctly after a chemical attack. The Russians provided no evidence of chemical weapons.