Deadly gas pours into the sky as Russian bombs strike Ukrainian chemical plant
The Ukrainian authorities have warned people in the city of Severodonetsk to stay inside after a massive cloud of poisonous gas was released from a chemical factory
Analysts believe Russian leader Vladimir Putin has concentrated a major part of his invasion force near Severodonetsk in a bid to achieve complete control over the eastern Luhansk province.
Victory in Luhansk could provide Putin with a face-saving “win” which would bring the campaign in Ukraine to an end – but in order to break through stiff Ukrainian resistance the Russian air force is subjecting Severodonetsk to round-the-clock bombing raids.
But the city is a major industrial centre, and home to one of the largest chemical plants in Europe.
Leonid Pasechnik, the leader of the pro-Russian Luhansk People's Republic, admitted that Russian forces were not advancing as rapidly as they hoped but stressed that the invaders want to “maintain the city's infrastructure above all".
That plan seems to have failed with the emergence of a video that shows a massive plume of toxic nitric acid erupted from a storage silo that was shattered by Russian bombs.
The highly-corrosive chemical can cause severe burns on exposed skin – and if it’s breathed in it can cause irreparable damage to the lungs.
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Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Russia ’s airstrikes on chemical plants are “no longer surprising” but “just madness".
“Given the presence of large-scale chemical production in Severodonetsk, the Russian army’s strikes there, including blind air bombing, are just madness,” Zelenskyy said.
“But on the 97th day of such a war, it is no longer surprising that for the Russian military, for Russian commanders, for Russian soldiers, any madness is absolutely acceptable,” he added.
He said that now, more than ever, Ukraine needed heavy weapons to help repel the Russian invaders.
US President Joe Biden has pledged to send long-range rocket systems to Kyiv as part of a $700million (£560m) weapons package
He told The New York Times: “We have moved quickly to send Ukraine a significant amount of weaponry and ammunition so it can fight on the battlefield and be in the strongest possible position at the negotiating table."
He added that he had decided to “provide the Ukrainians with more advanced rocket systems and munitions that will enable them to more precisely strike key targets on the battlefield”.
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