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Chloropicrin: Chemical Warfare Agent or Pesticide?

Chloropicrin, the chemical agent that U.S. accuses Russia of using (Credits: The Hindu)

On May 1, the U.S. State Department accused Russia of deploying a chemical weapon against Ukrainian forces, in violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), while also exposing new sanctions against Moscow.

According to the U.S. factsheet, Russia allegedly used the chemical agent chloropicrin in Ukraine, along with tear gas, as a method of warfare, both in breach of the CWC. The State Department asserts that such actions are not isolated incidents but are part of Russia’s strategy to dislodge Ukrainian forces and gain tactical advantages on the battlefield.

US accuses Russia of using a chemical weapon (Credits: France 24)

Chloropicrin, also known as nitrochloroform, is a chemical compound utilized as both a warfare agent and pesticide. It poses health risks if inhaled and is manufactured through various chemical reactions involving sodium hypochlorite or chloroform.

First used as a poison gas in World War I, chloropicrin induces irritation, tears, and vomiting, potentially leading soldiers to remove protective masks, exposing themselves to further harm.

Additionally, tear gas, a lachrymatory agent inducing tears, was reportedly used by Russia on the battlefield. Tear gas encompasses various substances like pepper spray and bromoacetone.

In response to these allegations, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sweeping sanctions aimed at undermining Russia’s military and industrial capabilities.

These sanctions target entities in Russia, China, and other countries allegedly supporting President Putin‘s invasion of Ukraine, including those involved in Moscow’s chemical and biological weapons programs.

US Accuses Russia Of Using ‘Chemical Weapon’ (Credits: News18)

The accusations and sanctions follow previous incidents of alleged chemical attacks, including reports of a “poisonous substance” released in civilian-populated areas in Mariupol, Ukraine, in April 2022.

While Russia claims to have destroyed its chemical weapons stockpile, incidents like the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and Alexei Navalny have raised doubts about its compliance with international agreements like the CWC.

These developments underscore growing international concerns regarding Russia’s use of chemical weapons and the need for increased transparency and accountability in addressing such violations.

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