Britain could go it alone if Putin's troops launch chemical agent

‘One country could respond in kind’: Armed forces minister warns that Britain could go it alone if Vladimir Putin’s troops launch chemical agent in Ukraine… and take action WITHOUT Nato vote

  • James Heappey says response to chemical weapons would not need a Nato vote
  • Comes after alleged chemical attack on Ukrainian troops defending Mariupol  
  • Azov Regiment said soldiers were suffering breathing issues and eye irritation
  • Mr Heappey said there are plenty of examples of countries acting unilaterally 

Britain could go it alone in responding directly to a chemical agent attack by Vladimir Putin in Ukraine, the armed forces minister has suggested.

James Heappey said the Russian president is wrong if he thinks a response to him using banned weapons would require a Nato vote.

He was speaking following the reported chemical attack on the remaining Ukrainian troops in Mariupol by Russian forces who are desperate to dislodge them.

Earlier this week soldiers from the Azov Regiment said they were suffering from shortness of breath, eye irritation and muscle spasms, supposedly after a mysterious white gas was released from a Russian drone. 

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky distanced himself from the claims but fears remain that an increasingly desperate Putin could use chemical weapons.

Yesterday Mr Heappey said: ‘There have been plenty of occasions where countries have acted unilaterally in response to outrages and others where smaller bi-lateral or tri-lateral responses have come together quickly.

‘President Putin cannot think there is any safety for him in knowing international consensus would need to be achieved. It does not have to be through Nato.’

A video released by the Azov Regiment showing a soldier struggling after an alleged chemical weapons attack on Mariupol

Syrian army soldiers are seen deployed in the Jobar neighbourhood of Damascus on August 24, 2013, when the president of the country’s main opposition group called for Western intervention after a suspected chemical weapons attack

Armed forces minister James Heappey has said the Russian president is wrong if he thinks a response to him using banned weapons would require a Nato vote

Russian President Vladimir Putin pictured during a meeting on the situation in the oil and gas sector on Thursday

A torn Ukrainian flag hangs from a wire in front of a destroyed building in the southern port city of Mariupol

He added that ‘in the case of launching action in Syria [in 2018] it was P3 [the United States, the United Kingdom and France] who responded.’

Mr Heappey had earlier told German newspaper Die Welt: ‘One country could decide that the use of chemical weapons is beyond the pale and that they respond in kind. It could be that two countries do, three countries do.

‘It could be that it’s a Nato thing. But my sense is that would be too hard to corral and the speed that you’d need to do it in order for it to be a relevant response.’

Mr Heappey visited European allies this week and reiterated yesterday how there were many opportunities for the UK, Germany and France to support any countries which can supply military equipment to Ukraine.

Poland is expected to provide 100 tanks to Ukraine which are similar to those already used by its troops, so no additional training will be required. The Poles will in turn receive American tanks.

Mr Heappey added: ‘If we are going to enter a period of more conventional force on force [in eastern Ukraine] clearly there’s a requirement for armoured vehicles and fast jets. 

‘There’s a real moment of opportunity as the Euro-Atlantic security situation adjust to what’s happened.’

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