Russian forces accused of using ‘chemical weapons’ after strike on Severodonetsk factory

Ukrainian mayor details effect of strike on town's chemical plant

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The Russian military has been accused of launching a deliberate chemical attack against Ukrainian troops and civilians in Severodonetsk.

A large chemical plant in the Ukrainian-held city was targeted and hit by a Russian air strike.

Consequently, people in the area have been affected by “chemical poisoning” as their breathing and skin have been badly damaged by plumes of hazardous chemicals leaking into the air.

The Mayor of Severodonetsk, Oleksandr Stryuk, said: “There was an airstrike on the chemical factory, it targeted a tank containing nitric acid.”

The Mayor explained that residents surrounding the chemical plant had suffered the worst effects of the resulting leak although the chemical cloud had also spread to other parts of the city.

Speaking to the BBC’s Ukrainecast Mr Stryuk continued: “ The people who suffered because of this include members of our military and also civilians who were at the factory. 

“Then, this plume was blown by the wind towards a forested area, parts of the city were affected, but not too much. 

“It’s dangerous because the people who were affected, they have signs of chemical poisoning, their respiratory tracts have been affected and their skin as well.”

Vitaly Shevchenko, a Ukrainian journalist who works as a senior member of the BBC, explained the local action that had been taken in Severodonetsk in a desperate attempt to control the chemical leak.

He said: “This factory, the chemical factory, is one of the largest in Ukraine, if not the largest.”

“The threat to the local population is very grave and the local authorities have told people to stay indoors and make face masks saturated with a mixture of soda to prevent damage to their lungs.”

The local population, well aware of the dangers of the chemical, have little choice but to remain in the city as the area has become largely surrounded by Russian forces.

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Frank Gardner, a security correspondent for the BBC added: “These are very crude, home-made gas mask apparatus.”

He suggested the measures taken by local authorities in Ukraine would not be enough to fully protect the population against the hazardous chemicals.

Mr Gardner continued: “The fact is that the local population in Ukraine doesn’t really have any modern protection against chemical weapons, which is essentially what this is.”

The BBC correspondent branded the attack by Russian forces as a clear attempt to introduce “chemical weapons” into the war in Ukraine.

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President Zelensky branded the attack by the Russian military “madness” as the huge orange chemical cloud threatens the safety of Severodonetsk residents.

He added: “Given the presence of large-scale chemical production in Severodonetsk, the Russian army’s strikes there, including blind air bombing, are just crazy.”

Russia has not claimed responsibility for the strike although Ukrainian officials argue the attack was clearly conducted by Putin’s forces as the chemical plant was destroyed from the air.

Intelligence reports from the UK Ministry Defence reinforce this assumption as “Russia has taken control of most of Severodonetsk,” using sustained and violent attacks throughout the region.

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