As fighting rages in Donetsk between government troops and pro-Russian rebels, a chemical nightmare awaits release. Stored in tanks of industrial sites in the Donbass region are large amounts of Chlorine gas, used in production processes and water treatment. Over 5,000 industrial facilities exist in Donbass, mostly controlled by rebel forces.
“If one of those uncontrolled sites containing chemicals were to detonate, tens of thousands of people could be poisoned. It is a potential disaster on the scale of Chernobyl,” Robert Amsterdam, Russian political expert and lawyer at international law firm Amsterdam & Partners, told Fox News.
“In a situation like this, where a war zone is near a concentration of industrial facilities where toxic and explosive chemicals are manufactured and stored, it is possible that massive releases of toxic chemicals could be released,” Rudy Richardson, professor of toxicology at the University of Michigan, told Fox News. “And that would result in high levels of civilian casualties.”
“Large chemical and industrial facilities are in areas where fighting is ongoing,” Tuncak said. “Battles are now being fought in cities, close to industrial centers with factories increasingly at risk of being hit: The consequences for anyone living close by would be severe,” said Baskut Tuncak, U.N. special rapporteur on human rights and hazardous substances and wastes.
“The fact that there are many large industrial facilities and water treatment plants in the conflict zone is cause for concern. Ensuring that workers in the vicinity of toxic stockpiles have immediate access to protective equipment (such as masks) is important,” Gilbert noted, cautioning that safety equipment is both costly and requires training to don and wear properly, in addition to having a limited shelf life. “Collateral – or even intentional – chemical casualties from the Ukraine conflict is a real possibility,” said John Gilbert, a senior science fellow with the Center for Arms Control and Non Proliferation’s Chemical and Biological Arms Control Working Group.