'Every option is on the table' if Russia uses chemical weapons in Ukraine, minister says

Armed Forces Minister James Heappey told Forces News "people will be held to account" if Russia uses chemical weapons in Ukraine.

"Every option is on the table" to hold Russia accountable if it uses chemical weapons in Ukraine, the Armed Forces Minister has said.

James Heappey told Forces News the Prime Minister, the President of the United States and the President of France "have all been very clear that the use of chemical weapons won't be tolerated".

"If they are used, people will be held to account and every option is on the table for how they will be held to account," he said.

He added that there needs to remain a certain level of "ambiguity" over the consequence of Russia using chemical weapons so President Vladimir Putin cannot weigh up whether it is a "price worth paying" for his military objectives in Ukraine.

Mr Heappey added that it was clear Putin's desire was to push for an outcome he can celebrate on 9 May, Russia's Victory Day. 

But the Russian president's refocusing on the Donbas region is not something the minister views as "particularly sensible".

He also said while central Ukraine can "return to some level of normality",  the focus on the Donbas will result in "some really bloody and intense fighting that could rumble on for months".

"They are dribbling reinforcements into the Donbas and they're doing so at a time of year when it's so muddy in the spring time that they'll be fixed on roads," Mr Heappey said.

"We've seen in the way that the Ukrainians reacted to the armoured column north of Kyiv, that if you've got really long convoys stuck on roads, the Ukrainians just pick them off.

Watch: Ukraine conflict has reached 'the decisive phase', former US Army chief says.

"This is just lots of Russian soldiers meeting their death because of Putin's arrogance," he added.

As the war is now approaching the eight-week mark, Mr Heappey added that NATO should not have got involved in the conflict from the outset.

"I think if we were, I don't think I'd be having this conversation with you from an above-ground room in the MOD (Ministry of Defence)," he said.

"I think I would have been down in the bunker and we would have found ourselves with cruise missiles landing in London."

Cover image: Daniel Ceng Shou-Yi/Zuma Press Wire/Zuma Press Inc/Alamy Live News).