The Pentagon says it’s monitoring claims that Russian forces deployed a poisonous substance in the besieged eastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol, which if confirmed as a chemical weapon could further escalate the war. Yet clarity will be difficult to achieve.

The allegations were made by members of the Azov battalion, a right wing militia folded into Ukraine’s National Guard that has been part of Mariupol’s defense and has now retreated to the city’s vast steel factory, Azovstal, to mount a final stand.

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