Biden says Putin is considering using chemical and biological weapons in Ukraine

The US President issued one of his strongest warnings yet that Moscow is considering using chemical weapons, as Russian troops have failed to capture any major Ukrainian city more than four weeks into their invasion

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Ukraine's military said on Tuesday residents should brace for more indiscriminate Russian shelling of critical infrastructure, as US President Joe Biden issued one of his strongest warnings yet that Moscow is considering using chemical weapons.

Russian troops have failed to capture any major Ukrainian city more than four weeks into their invasion, and increasingly are resorting to causing massive destruction to residential areas using air strikes, long-range missiles and artillery.

U.S. President Joe Biden discusses the United States' response to Russian invasion of Ukraine and warns CEOs about potential cyber attacks from Russia at Business Roundtable's CEO Quarterly Meeting in Washington, DC, U.S., March 21, 2022. REUTERS/Leah Millis
U.S. President Joe Biden discusses the United States' response to Russian invasion of Ukraine and warns CEOs about potential cyber attacks from Russia at Business Roundtable's CEO Quarterly Meeting in Washington, DC, U.S., March 21, 2022. REUTERS/Leah Millis

The southern port of Mariupol has become a focal point of Russia's assault and lies largely in ruins with bodies lying on the streets, but attacks were also reported to have intensified on the second city Kharkiv on Monday.

Ukraine's armed forces said in a statement issued on Tuesday that Russian forces were expected to continue to attack critical infrastructure using "high-precision weapons and indiscriminate munitions”.

U.S. President Joe Biden discusses the United States' response to Russian invasion of Ukraine and warns CEOs about potential cyber attacks from Russia at Business Roundtable's CEO Quarterly Meeting in Washington, DC, U.S., March 21, 2022. REUTERS/Leah Millis
U.S. President Joe Biden discusses the United States' response to Russian invasion of Ukraine and warns CEOs about potential cyber attacks from Russia at Business Roundtable's CEO Quarterly Meeting in Washington, DC, U.S., March 21, 2022. REUTERS/Leah Millis

Without citing evidence, Biden said Russia's false accusations that Kyiv had biological and chemical weapons illustrated that President Vladimir Putin was considering using them himself.

Putin's "back is against the wall and now he's talking about new false flags he's setting up including, asserting that we in America have biological as well as chemical weapons in Europe, simply not true," Biden said at a Business Roundtable event.

A satellite image shows burning apartment buildings in Mariupol, Ukraine, March 19, 2022. Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies/Handout.
A satellite image shows burning apartment buildings in Mariupol, Ukraine, March 19, 2022. Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies/Handout.

"They are also suggesting that Ukraine has biological and chemical weapons in Ukraine. That's a clear sign he's considering using both of those."

The Russian embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Biden also told businesses to be alert for possible cyber attacks by Russia. "It’s part of Russia’s playbook," he said in a statement.

Washington and its allies have previously accused Russia of spreading an unproven claim that Ukraine had a biological weapons programme as a possible prelude to using such weapons itself, but Biden's remarks on Monday were some of his strongest yet on the subject.

Russia says it does not attack civilians although the devastation wrought on Ukrainian towns such as Mariupol and Kharkiv are reminiscent of previous Russian assaults on cities in Chechnya and Syria.

Putin calls the war, the biggest attack on a European state since World War Two, a "special military operation" to disarm Ukraine and protect it from "Nazis". The West calls this a false pretext for an unprovoked war of aggression.

Biden is due to travel to Europe this week for meetings with allied leaders to discuss tighter sanctions on Russia, on top of the unprecedented financial penalties already announced. Ahead of the trip he discussed Russia's "brutal" tactics in a call with European leaders on Monday, the White House said.