“All options are on the table” for how the West will respond if Russia uses chemical weapons in Ukraine, Britain’s junior Armed Forces minister said Tuesday.
It comes as unconfirmed reports of a possible strike involving a chemical substance in the Ukrainian port city if Mariupol emerged Monday, which the UK has been unable to verify, James Heappey told Sky News.
“I think it’s useful to maintain some ambiguity […] over exactly what the response would be, but let’s be clear, if they are used at all, then [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin should know that all possible options are on the table in terms of how the West might respond,” Heappey said.
It would be an “effective” and “well considered” response, he added.
CNN cannot independently verify that there has been any kind of chemical strike in Mariupol.
CNN teams on the ground have so far not seen evidence of such an attack, or any imagery from Mariupol sources to verify this.
“These are appalling weapons to even think about using,” Heappey said.
“That they are part of the discussion is sobering. There are some things that are beyond the pale, and the use of chemical weapons will get a response, and all options are on the table for what that response could be.”
He cautioned: “But it’s important to recognize that there are all sorts of ways in which these things could be used, from the use of tear gas which is effectively a riot control measure all the way through to utterly devastating lethal chemical weapons systems.
“So I don’t think it’s helpful to be too binary about the situation because these are highly nuanced.”
Heappey said some Ukrainian troops will be arriving in the UK in the coming days to learn how to operate 120 British armored vehicles that will be sent to Ukraine, along with defense and anti-tank missiles as part of a new package of high-grade military equipment.
“We are getting as much to the Ukrainian MoD as we can,” he said in a separate interview with LBC radio in London.