National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan has warned Vladimir Putin that there will be “consequences” if Moscow uses chemical weapons in its war on Ukraine, in the highest level call between US and Russian officials since the start of the invasion.
Mr Sullivan spoke with Secretary of the Russian Security Council Nikolay Patrushev on Wednesday morning to “reiterate the United States’ firm and clear opposition to Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine”, according to a National Security Council spokesperson.
“Mr. Sullivan also warned General Patrushev about the consequences and implications of any possible Russian decision to use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine,” said spokesperson Emily Horne.
In the call, Mr Sullivan “clearly laid out” the US’ continued commitment to impose costs on Russia, to support Ukraine in its defence from Russian attack and to reinforce NATO’s eastern flank in coordination with its allies and partners.
The US official also urged his Russian counterpart to stop attacking Ukrainian cities and towns.
“Mr. Sullivan told General Patrushev that if Russia is serious about diplomacy then Moscow should stop attacking Ukrainian cities and towns,” said Ms Horne.
US officials have been warning that Russia could deploy chemical and biological weapons in its war on Ukraine, as the Kremlin plants a false flag claims that Ukraine and the US could be planning to use such weapons on Moscow.
Mr Sullivan said last week that Mr Putin could be laying the claim so that he can “pin the blame on someone else” if or when he deploys chemical weapons.
Mr Putin also announced that he was putting Russia’s chemical weapons on “high alert” – an announcement that the West has taken as a threat.
Mr Sullivan’s latest warning about the possibility of a chemical attack comes just days after he also vowed there would be “appropriate consequences” to the “shocking and horrifying” killing of American journalist Brent Renaud.
Mr Sullivan told CBS’ Face the Nation on Sunday morning that he was consulting with US and Ukrainian officials to learn more about the 50-year-old’s death before taking action.
Three days on, the US is yet to take action over Mr Renaud’s death.
Since then, two more journalists – Fox News cameraman Pierre Zakrzewski and Ukrainian journalist Oleksandra Kurshynova – were killed and Fox News correspondent Benjamin Hall was injured when their vehicle was attacked in Ukraine on Monday while reporting on the war for the US network.
On Tuesday, Mr Sullivan also met with Chinese officials, where he urged Beijing’s top diplomat not to side with Russia in its assault on Ukraine.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki revealed that the US national security adviser warned China will face “severe consequences” if it “supports the war effort” of Russia.
The lengthy seven-hour meeting based in Rome came following reports that China could provide military and economic support to Russia.
Wednesday’s meeting with Russian officials came as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed US lawmakers in a virtual wartime speech that morning, where he received a standing ovation and called on the US for more help to defend Ukraine from Russian attack.
In the powerful speech, the president compared the attack on Ukraine to dark days of America’s history – Pearl Harbor and the September 11 terrorist attacks.
“Right now, when we need you right now, remember Pearl Harbor. The terrible morning of December 7 1941 when your skies were black from the planes attacking. You remember it,” he said.
“September 11 – a terrible day in 2001 when evil tried to turn your cities, independent territories in battleground, when innocent people were attacked from air.
“Yes, just like nobody else expected it. You could not stop it.
“Our country experiences the same every day right now -at this moment, every night, for three weeks now.”
Mr Zelensky played a heartbreaking video showing some of the atrocities carried out on the Ukrainian people and made a direct appeal to President Joe Biden to be the “leader of peace”.
“As the leader of my nation I’m addressing President Biden… I wish you to be the leader of the world,” he said.
“Being the leader of the world means being the leader of peace.”
He reiterated his pleas for Nato allies to establish a no-fly zone over the country but added that, if it was “too much to ask”, then an alternative would be to send air defence systems and fighter jets to Ukraine.
He also called on the US to implement further sanctions on Russia including all its politicians, for all American companies to leave the Russian market immediately, for US lawmakers to put pressure on businesses that refuse and for US ports to be closed to all Russian goods.
Mr Zelensky has repeatedly called for a no-fly zone but the US and other Nato countries have so far refused, fearing it would escalate tensions between their own nations and Russia.