Boris Johnson today said he fears Vladimir Putin will use chemical weapons in Ukraine because it would be ‘straight out of Russia’s playbook’.
The Prime Minister said Mr Putin is in charge of a ‘cynical, barbaric government’ and he believes Moscow could resort to deploying chemical weapons after its invasion stalled in the face of fierce resistance from Ukrainian forces.
Mr Johnson also said he believes Russia is preparing a ‘fake story’ which it could use to deny using the weapons and to blame the West.
The Prime Minister told Sky News’ Beth Rigby Interviews show: ‘I will make you one other prediction by the way which is that the stuff that you are hearing about chemical weapons, this is straight out of their playbook.
‘They start saying that there are chemical weapons that have been stored by their opponents or by the Americans and so when they themselves deploy chemical weapons, as I fear they may, they have a sort of maskirovka, a fake story, ready to go. And you have seen it in Syria. You saw it even in the UK.’
Asked if it was his expectation that Russia will use chemical weapons, the premier said: ‘I just note that that is what they are already doing [preparing a fake story]. It is a cynical, barbaric government I am afraid.’
Mr Johnson’s comments came after Defence minister James Heappey insisted the bombing of a maternity hospital in Ukraine was a war crime as he called for Mr Putin and Russian generals to be held to account.
Mr Heappey stressed that the West is gathering evidence that can be used in a future prosecution, but said in a round of interviews: ‘What you see on your TV screens is a war crime.’
It has been confirmed three people, including a child, died when warplanes bombed the hospital in besieged Mariupol as pregnant women gave birth in the basement.
President Volodymyr Zelensky has described the attack as an ‘atrocity’ and ‘the ultimate proof of genocide against Ukrainians’.