Hundreds of civilians sheltering in Sievierodonetsk factory, says lawyer

A man holds his baby inside the Azot chemical plant's bomb shelter, in Sievierodonetsk, in April 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

KYIV, UKRAINE (AFP) - Some 800 civilians have taken refuge in a chemical factory in Ukraine's strategic eastern city of Sievierodonetsk, according to a lawyer for Mr Dmytro Firtash, whose company owns the facility.

"About 800 civilians have taken refuge in the bunkers of the Azot chemical plant, owned by Dmytro Firtash's Group DF," said Mr Lanny Davis, the American lawyer, in a statement published on the company website.

Russian troops have been pushing for control of the key city over the past weeks as part of their effort to conquer eastern Ukraine.

"These 800 civilians include around 200 out of the plant's 3,000 employees and approximately 600 inhabitants of the city of Sievierodonetsk," he added.

The workers had remained at the factory in an attempt to "secure" the remaining part of "the plant's highly explosive chemicals", the statement said.

Contacted by AFP, the Ukrainian presidency had not confirmed the information by the end of the afternoon.

Moscow announced earlier on Tuesday that it had "completely liberated" residential areas of Sievierodonetsk, following Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's comments on Monday that Ukrainian fighters were "holding" their positions.

Mr Dmytro Firtash, 57, one of Ukraine's wealthiest citizens, is a close ally of former pro-Russian Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych.

In June 2021, Mr Zelensky signed a decree imposing sanctions on the tycoon, including the freezing of his assets and withdrawal of licences from his companies, after accusing him of selling titanium products to Russian military companies.

People stand at the entrance to the Azot chemical plant's bomb shelter, in Sievierodonetsk, in April 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

Mr Firtash had nonetheless denounced the Russian invasion at the end of February and helped to establish a 24/7 television news network alongside the presidential administration.

"This war is completely unnecessary and can in no way be justified," he said in Tuesday's statement.

Hundreds of people are holed up at the Azot chemical plant (above), in Sievierodonetsk, in Ukraine's Luhansk region. PHOTO: REUTERS

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