Russia says Ukrainian fighters rigged fertilizer plant with explosives

Russia says Ukrainian fighters rigged fertilizer plant with explosives

Russia's defense ministry claims that Kiev's fighters have rigged a fertilizer plant with explosives.

Russia s defense ministry says there is credible information that Ukrainian fighters are using civilians as human shields inside the Azot chemical plant in the Donbass city of Severodonetsk.

According to the ministry, Ukrainian troops are holding hundreds of the town's residents and workers inside the plant's underground facilities. The nationalists have rigged tanks containing dangerous chemicals nitric acid, ammonia and ammonium nitrate with explosives and plan to blow them up during the retreat. The plant makes fertilizer. In recent weeks, heavy fighting has been reported in and around Severodonetsk as Russian and Donbass forces try to take the city.

Sergey Gayday, the chief Kiev official in the region, accused Russia of shelling the Azot factory on Wednesday evening, damaging its ammonium production facility. He said the plant's underground bunker was not damaged.

Gayday said that all fertilizer and chemicals had been removed from the plant's territory on the second day of the war. Russia's defense ministry claimed on Thursday that Ukraine was also holding workers inside the Konditsioner plant in the town of Kramatorsk. The factory makes air conditioners and water heaters. Moscow said Ukrainian fighters have positioned rocket launchers there, as well as explosives inside a chemical plant in the city of Avdeyevka.

According to the information provided by captured Ukrainian soldiers, nationalists planned to shell the Zmiyovskaya thermal power station in the eastern Kharkov region and then pin the blame on Moscow.

Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of indiscriminate shelling residential areas and killing civilians. Moscow reiterated on Thursday that its troops only attack military assets.

Russia launched an offensive against Ukraine in late February after Kiev s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German and French protocols were designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.

The Kremlin has demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists that the Russian offensive was unprovoked and has denied it plans to retake the two republics by force.