Russian forces stepped up their attack on the battered city of Severodonetsk by striking a chemical plant that sent a huge cloud of smoke into the air.
Footage taken by a Ukrainian defender shows a spewing cloud of nitric acid as Russian forces pushed to take the strategic city Severodonetsk in a bid to turn the tide of the war.
The Ukrainian authorities have warned people to stay inside due to the risk posed by toxic fumes after the blast.
Nitric acid, which is yellow or red, is corrosive and can cause severe burns, ulcerations, and scarring when in contact with skin.
Its vapor can also cause pulmonary edema when inhaled – which can be fatal.
Luhansk governor Serhiy Haidai said the dangerous chemical release was caused when Vladimir Putin’s forces carried out an airstrike on a chemicals plant.
Haidai said an aerial attack from a Russian warplane led to the chemical release, exposing residents to toxic fumes, in a city with a normal population of 106,000, though many have fled from the advance of Vladimir Putin’s forces.
The Russian Investigative Committee announced a criminal investigation into the nitric acid release.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has replied by blasting Moscow’s airstrikes in the frontline city as “madness.”
In his video address, he condemned the airstrikes in the city but added he was not surprised by Russia’s attack.
“Given the presence of large-scale chemical production in Severodonetsk, the Russian army’s strikes there, including blind air bombing, are just madness,” he 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.”
Meanwhile, Moscow claimed that Ukrainian forces hit a nitric acid tank, triggering an explosion and release of the orange fumes.
A Russian source said: “Footage has emerged of an explosion of a chemical tanker, presumably containing nitric acid, set off by the Ukrainian armed forces at the Azot plant in Severodonetsk.”
It comes as Putin demanded the city was captured by yesterday.
Both sides said Russian forces now controlled between a third and half of the city – but Ukrainian forces are still resisting.
Russia’s separatist proxies acknowledged that capturing the city was taking longer than hoped, despite one of the biggest ground assaults of the war.
It comes as a bombshell report has revealed Putin could sacrifice his own army in a bid for a hollow victory in Ukraine to save his skin despite losing more than 30,000 troops.
But the new report – seen by senior UK government officials and obtained by The Mirror – warns Putin’s blood sacrifice may be a step too far for his troops.
This story originally appeared on The Sun and has been reproduced here with permission.