Russia’s Defense Ministry said Wednesday that Ukraine’s security service plans to carry out a chemical attack on civilians and then blame it on Russia.
"We know for sure that with the support of Western countries, the SBU (Security Service of Ukraine) is preparing a provocation with the use of toxic substances against civilians.
"The purpose of the provocation is to accuse Russia of using chemical weapons against the population of Ukraine," ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said at a daily briefing in Moscow.
Russia has destroyed all of its chemical weapons, which was verified by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), and therefore does not have chemical munitions, said Konashenkov.
He added that the Russian military found in a captured regional headquarters of Ukraine's National Guard a detailed map of the territory of Ukraine with markings showing storage sites of toxic substances.
"Therefore, any attempt by the SBU with the use of toxic substances will inevitably be disclosed," he warned.
Commenting on allegations that Russian forces had shot and killed 10 people waiting in line for bread in the Ukrainian city of Chernihiv, Konashenkov stressed that no Russian soldiers are or have been there.
"I want to emphasize that there were no Russian servicemen in Chernihiv and there are none. All units of the Russian armed forces are outside Chernihiv blocking roads and are not conducting any offensive actions on the city.
"Thus, all the dead people are victims of the terror of Ukrainian nationalists, or these video shots were staged by the Ukrainian Security Service," he said.
Konashenkov also denied that Russian forces had carried out an airstrike on a theater building in the city of Mariupol, saying "Russian aviation did not perform any tasks related to striking ground targets in the city."
He added that refugees that had escaped from Mariupol said neo-Nazis of the Azov battalion were holding civilians hostage in the theater building, using the upper floors as firing points.
"According to the available reliable data, the militants of the nationalist Azov battalion committed a new bloody provocation by blowing up the theater building they had mined," he said.
He also accused the nationalist units of shooting at a column of buses containing refugees heading towards Russia from the city of Kharkiv, which left four people dead.
According to Konashenkov, on March 16, Russia struck an intelligence center in the city of Vinnitsya with high-precision weapons.
The Russian Aerospace Forces also shot down a Ukrainian Mi-24 helicopter, six unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and 34 targets of Ukraine's military infrastructure, including a multiple launch rocket system, three command posts, an electronic warfare station, seven ammunition depots and 19 points of large concentrations of military equipment, he noted.
In total, since the beginning of the special military operation, 180 aircraft and helicopters, 166 UAVs, 1,367 tanks and other armored combat vehicles, 132 multiple rocket launchers, 502 field artillery and mortar guns, as well as 1,156 units of special military vehicles have been destroyed, he said.
The Russia-Ukraine war, which started on Feb. 24, has drawn international condemnation, led to financial restrictions on Moscow and spurred an exodus of global firms from Russia.
At least 726 civilians have been killed and 1,174 injured in Ukraine since the beginning of the war, according to the UN, while noting that conditions on the ground make it difficult to verify the true number.
Over 3 million people have also fled to neighboring countries, said the UN refugee agency./aa