secretary of state anthony blinken
© AP / Carolyn Kaster
Washington has been "very much focused" on the matter but is unable to verify reports, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

The United States has not been able to verify reports of the alleged use of chemical weapons by Russian forces in Ukraine but is "very, very much focused" on the matter, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday.

Republican Representative Adam Kinzinger asked Blinken to provide an update on the government's recent claims that chemical weapons may have been used by Russia. Noting that it might be more appropriate to discuss this issue "in a different setting," Blinken underlined that the US government is looking at the matter "very, very carefully."

"I don't believe that we've been able to verify that use, but I want to come back to you," he told Kinzinger.

He added that there are different kinds of chemical agents that could have been used, "including riot-control agents that would be prohibited."

"But in terms of the use of chemical weapons, I think what I can say here is that we have not yet verified the use but it is something we are very, very much focused on," Blinken stressed.

Two weeks ago, Blinken said the government "had credible information" that Russian forces may use "a variety of riot-control agents, including tear gas mixed with chemical agents" in "the aggressive campaign to take Mariupol."

On the same day, State Department spokesman Ned Price said the US government was concerned that "Russia may seek to resort to chemical weapons."

The Russian Embassy in Washington called Price's statements "provocative" and called on the US authorities to intensify the process of chemical demilitarization of their own country instead of "spreading disinformation."

According to a NBC report, released in early April, US intelligence officials have deliberately leaked some "low-confidence" information about the Ukraine conflict in order to win an "info war" against the Kremlin and discourage Russia from actually using chemical weapons. Thus, when the American media cited US "intelligence" to warn that Russia was preparing to carry out a chemical attack in Ukraine, and when President Joe Biden repeated these warnings, they were participating in a disinformation campaign, the NBC report revealed.

Meanwhile, Moscow has repeatedly warned of possible chemical attacks by Ukraine's Security Service (SBU). In mid-March, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Russia knew "for certain" that the SBU was preparing "a provocation using poisonous substances against civilians" with the support of Western countries.

"The purpose of the provocation is to accuse Russia of using chemical weapons against the population of Ukraine," Konashenkov claimed.

He also emphasized that Russia, "unlike the United States," has met its international obligations and completely destroyed all stockpiles of chemical weapons.

Moscow sent its troops to Ukraine in late February, following Kiev's failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Russia's eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered Minsk Protocol was designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.

The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join NATO. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.