Burning ammunition pours down from Ukrainian steel plant

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© Reuters. This undated still image was obtained from a handout video released on May 15, 2022.

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LONDON (Reuters) – White, brightly burning ammunition cascaded down from the Azovstal steel mill in the Ukrainian port of Mariupol, in what a British military expert said looked like it was fired with phosphorous or incendiary. weapon attack.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said “delicate” negotiations were underway on the rescue of Ukrainian soldiers hiding under the huge complex.

A Ukrainian officer among the remaining defenders said 600 fighters remained, 40 of them seriously wounded. Civilians have been evacuated from the labyrinth of bunkers.

Reuters could not immediately determine the type of ammunition used by the Azovstal complex or when the video was taken. It was posted on the Telegram messaging app on Sunday by the pro-Russian self-proclaimed commander of the Donetsk Republic, Alexander Khodakovsky.

“If you don’t know what it is and for what purpose – you can say it’s even beautiful,” Khodakovsky said in a message alongside the video. Hodakovsky could not be immediately reached for comment.

It is unclear which units fired the munitions or from where.

Not enough medicines or surgical equipment

Denys Shlega, commander of the Ukrainian National Guard, described conditions underground at the factory as dire.

“There are not enough drugs or surgical equipment,” Shleja told Ukrainian television. “At the moment, we have about 600 injured. About 40 are in very serious condition.”

Russian troops have infiltrated parts of the steel plant, Schleiga said, “but it’s not very important, we’re holding on to … holding on to our last troops.”

Russian troops have been hitting Mariupol for nearly two months.

Russia has not commented on the specific weapons it used to attack the plant. The Russian Defense Ministry did not respond to a written request for comment on the video.

The Ukrainian Armed Forces declined immediate official comment. The prosecutor’s office said it had launched an investigation into the possible use of incendiary weapons.

White phosphorus munitions can be used on the battlefield to create smoke screens, generate lighting, mark targets, or burn down bunkers and structures. International conventions do not ban white phosphorus as a chemical weapon.

Human rights groups have urged a ban on phosphorus munitions because they cause severe burns. The United States used phosphorus munitions in the Vietnam War and the 2003-2011 Iraq War. Russia used them in the Chechen war.

Mariupol mayor’s aide Peter Andryushenko said Russia used incendiary or phosphorous bombs in Azovstad. Andryushchenko is speaking from territory controlled by Ukraine. Reuters could not immediately verify his comments.

Hamish Stephen de Bretton-Gordon, a former commander of Britain’s Combined Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Corps, said it looked a lot like phosphorus in the video, but only one sample could give absolute confirmation.

“It does look a lot like a white phosphorus rocket or artillery shell exploding on or on the ground,” he told Reuters.

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