WASHINGTON – Russia is now being accused of using chemical weapons in Ukraine. If that report is confirmed, it could mark a major escalation and turning point in the country's war with Russia. The Pentagon says it's closely monitoring the unconfirmed reports.
On social media, a paramilitary battalion incorporated into Ukraine's National Guard is accusing the Kremlin of using a drone to drop a poisonous substance in the city of Mariupol.
The accusation comes as a spokesman for Moscow-backed forces in the disputed region of Donetsk called on Russia to use "chemical forces" on the city.
Ukraine's President Zelenskyy says the statement testifies to Russia's planning of "a new stage of terror" against his country.
NATO's Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said this kind of attack would change the war. "It would be a blatant violation of international law and will have far-reaching consequence," he said in March.
Meanwhile, Mariupol's mayor says as many as 20,000 people have been killed in the besieged city. Dead bodies are now "carpeted through the streets" of Mariupol where Russian troops have already killed thousands and thousands of civilians.
Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko says Russian troops have blocked humanitarian convoys for weeks because they're trying to conceal what they've done to the civilians of his city. Ukrainian officials contend that Russian forces have even brought mobile cremation equipment to Mariupol to dispose of the corpses of victims.
“Mobile crematoriums have arrived in the form of trucks: You open it, and there is a pipe inside and these bodies are burned,” Boychenko said. His claims have not been verified, but Russia already stands accused of war crimes after large numbers of dead civilians were found on the outskirts of Kyiv, apparently executed, some with hands tied behind their backs.
On the diplomatic front, Austria's chancellor is now the first European Union leader to meet face to face with Vladimir Putin since the invasion began. The chancellor called the meeting "unfriendly" and "tough" after he raised the issue of Russian atrocities.
And President Biden met virtually with India's Prime Minister to discuss limiting Russian oil imports and pressuring Putin to end the fighting.
This week multiple members of Congress are in eastern Europe. House leaders Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) are leading bipartisan groups and will meet with Ukrainian refugees in a show of solidarity with NATO and Europe.