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A still from YouTube video by SputnikTV allegedly shows remains of a shell near the facilities of Gorlovka chemical plant in eastern Ukraine.
A still from YouTube video by SputnikTV allegedly shows remains of a shell near the facilities of Gorlovka chemical plant in eastern Ukraine.
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Toxic risk as missiles strike Ukraine's biggest chemical plant

The Ecologist

11th August 2014

As the warring parties fight for control for Donetsk, the country's biggest chemical plant has come under fire, with missiles landing close to pipelines and storage tanks. If released, toxic nitrochlorobenzene could cause widespread death.

Citizens of Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus are exposed to a deadly threat from an ecological disaster on a daily basis, the size of which cannot be predicted.

Ukraine is at risk of an environmental disaster as Kiev's army continues to bomb the Donestk region, nearly hitting Ukraine's largest chemical plant.

Several shells and missiles have already landed within the plant perimeter, narrowly missing above-ground pipelines, and within tens of metres of chemical storage tanks and reactor vessels.

Pavel Brykov, a spokesman for the Stirol plant, said in a YouTube message on Sunday that the plant that stores lethal agents including nitrochlorobenzene - a potentially lethal substance.

The chemical is similar to the well known poison cyanide in its operation, causing anoxia by converting haemoglobin into methemoglobin, so reducing the blood's capacity to carry oxygen. It is also carcinogenic.

According to the US Center for Disease Control (CDC), the substance is readily absorbed through skin. "If treatment is not given promptly, death may occur." The exposure limit is set at 1mg per cubic meter.

Ukraine, Russia, Belarus all at risk

In the event of a release of chemicals the 'impact zone' would extend for at least 300 km, said Brykov, adding that the risks of the accident are being silenced in the Ukrainian media.

For the past three weeks, the Ukrainian army has been intensely shelling Gorlovka, located in Ukraine's Donetsk region, which is home to the Stirol chemical plant. Brykov warned in his message:

"Due to the irresponsible actions of the Ukrainian army, citizens of Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus are exposed to a deadly threat from an ecological disaster on a daily basis, the size of which cannot be predicted."

It has also been reported that 160 tonnes of chlorine are stored at the Stirol plant - the gas used as a toxic agent in the trenches of the First World War.

Stirol is part of the OSTCHEM holding company that belongs to Ukrainian businessman Dmitry Firtash.

Pavel Brykov, a spokesman for the Stirol plant, sets out the dangers of an artillery strike to the Stirol chemical plant. Russian language. Includes footage of shells that have landed within the plant perimeter.

Ammonia production has ceased

Earlier, Firtash claimed there is no risk of a catastrophe since there are no lethal agents stored at the plant. He added that back in May, when the shelling of the region began to intensify, the plant stopped the synthesis and processing of ammonia and evacuated all of its workers.

The Stirol plant was involved in an accident that killed six people and injured 26 others a year ago, when ammonia gas was released into the air during repair work. The incident was one of the biggest in the country's recent history.

In their offensive against the eastern Ukrainian militia, Kiev troops have been using multiple-rocket launchers, such as Grad and Uragan - highly indiscriminate weapons designed for destroying enemy forces in the field. The use of these inaccurate weapons in a civilian area has been denounced by Human Rights Watch as a possible war crime.

Just on Thursday, a unique wooden Orthodox church burned to the ground after being hit by an artillery shell in Gorlovka.

740,000 people have fled to Russia

The ongoing fighting in eastern Ukraine has already led to more than 1,300 people - both civilians and military troops - being killed in the conflict, and over 4,000 others being wounded. At the same time, around 118,000 people have been internally displaced and 740,000 others have fled to Russia.

Ukraine is also the site of the world's worst nuclear power plant accident in history. The catastrophic nuclear disaster happened on April 26, 1986 at reactor number four of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine, which was then one of the USSR republics. The plant is located near the city of Pripyat, some 100 km north of the capital Kiev.

As a result of the explosion and fire, a huge radioactive cloud was spread into the atmosphere, covering thousands of miles of Soviet and European territories. Approximately 100,000 square kilometers of land were significantly contaminated.

Thirty-one out of the 237 people diagnosed with acute radiation sickness died within the first three months of the accident. Overall, 492,000 to 1.4 million people have been estimated to have contracted cancer as a result of the incident.



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