Residents of the northern Ukrainian town of Novoselytsya should seek shelter after shelling caused an ammonia leak at a nearby chemical factory, an official said, as intense fighting with Russian forces in the area continues.
According to an update from the Sumy regional military administration, the site of the Sumykhimprom plant, which produces fertilisers, was shelled at 3.55am on Monday morning.
“As a result of the shelling 1 tank with ammonia was damaged,” Ukraine’s state emergency services said in an update on its Telegram account, adding that as of 5am there was a slight leakage of ammonia.
Rescue workers were fixing a damaged pipeline and an employee at the plant was reportedly injured.
Sumy regional governor, Dmytro Zhyvytskyiy, said the leak was reported at 4.30am local time at the Sumykhimprom plant in an update posted to his official Telegram on Monday morning.
“As a result of Russian enemy shelling, a tank with ammonia with a capacity of 50 tonnes was damaged,” Zhyvytskyiy said, adding that there was no threat to the population of Sumy.
He said the area within a 2.5km radius around the plant was hazardous, adding that residents should seek refuge in shelters and basements for protection while describing ammonia as a “colourless gas with a pungent suffocating odour”.
“Ammonia is lighter than air, therefore shelters, basements and lower floors should be used for protection,” Zhyvytsky said in a Telegram message.
He added that emergency crews were at the scene and prevailing winds meant the nearby city of Sumy – with a prewar population of about 250,000 – was not under immediate threat.
According to Sumykhimprom’s website the facility produces a range of chemical fertilisers.
Sumy, about 350km (220 miles) east of Kyiv, has experienced weeks of heavy fighting.
In recent days the Russian government has intensified propaganda and disinformation efforts alleging Ukraine is preparing to use improvised chemical weapons and has been developing a clandestine weapon of mass destruction programme.
The Russian Ministry of Defence claimed late Sunday that “nationalists” had “mined” ammonia and chlorine storage facilities at Sumykhimprom “with the aim of mass poisoning of residents of the Sumy region, in case of entry into the city of units of the Russian Armed Forces”.
Russia has repeatedly denied helping Syria use chemical weapons in multiple attacks against its own citizens during the country’s 11-year-old civil war.
Moscow has also denied using chemical weapons against Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny as well as ex Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.