K-51 grenades produce a harsh gas that can incapacitate- Ukrainians say the Russians are now dropping chemicals on them

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New video footage of what Ukrainian forces claim to be a K-51 grenade was shared via Telegram by the Naval Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

What was revealed in recent video footage shared by Ukraine?

The translated caption to the shared video revealed that,

The terrorist state uses prohibited chemical weapons - K-51 aerosol grenades. The occupiers drop chloropicrin grenades from drones on our defenders in the East. In order to protect themselves from the strong irritant effect of the prohibited ammunition, the marines held their positions in chemical defenses." [i]
A WWI gas mask.Photo byLuz28/Wikimedia Commons

The K-51 grenades were said to have been dropped from a drone in the Donetsk region. Ukrainian forces say that one of the dropped grenades did not break and so was recorded, as shown below. [ii]

What do we know about the use of tear gas and similar chemical compounds during war?

The Chemical Weapons Convention in 1993, backed by Russia, prohibits using tear gas on the battlefield. The K-51 grenades are believed to use chloropicrin, a chemical compound previously used as a poison gas in World War I. Symptoms include an immediate burning sensation, watering eyes, coughing, sneezing, shortness of breath, and vomiting. High concentrations of chloropicrin can cause severe damage to the lungs, eyes, and skin. [iii]

German forces used chloropicrin as a chemical warfare agent during World War I. Although chloropicrin is not nearly as lethal as other chemical weapons, German troops found a way to get the most out of its use. Because chloropicrin induces vomiting, they used it to force the Allied soldiers to remove their gas masks so that they could vomit. After removing their masks, the soldiers would be exposed to other, more toxic chemical gases used during the war. [iv]

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[i] Naval Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, The terrorist state uses prohibited chemical weapons - K-51 aerosol grenades (Dec. 4, 2022)

[ii] Russia Post, Occupants use chemical grenades against Ukrainian defenders in the east - Navy (Dec. 4, 2022)

[iii] Compound Chem, Chemical Warfare: Poison Gases in World War I (May 17, 2014)

[iv] Id.

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