Same Donetsk Chemical Factory, Different Fire

Incident-prone factory continues to pose environmental and health hazards in the Donbas

Screenshot of an August 16, 2017, video of a fire at the Donetsk State Factory of Chemical Products (DKZKhI). (Source: Twitter user @666_mancer)

On August 16, local residents in non-government-controlled territory of Ukraine posted videos and photographs of a large fire at the Donetsk State Factory of Chemical Products (DKZKhI), marking another dangerous situation at the mostly-abandoned factory in northwestern Donetsk. It is currently unclear what caused the fire, but numerous factors have caused similar explosions and fires at this factory in the past. These factors include: Ukrainian shelling; what seem to have been accidents committed by Russian-led separatist forces; and, according to unsubstantiated claims, sabotage.

Translation: “#Donetsk #DKZKhI ‘warehouses with the remains of OKFOL and RDX (explosives) burning.’”
Translation: “#Donetsk: ‘something is burning again at the DKZKhI.’”
Translation: “5:08pm from Facebook. I see a serious flame near the state factory with a huge mushroom cloud of smoke, and black smoke a couple kilometers to the north.”

The video in the tweet above was filmed near the Lozovsky Cemetery in northwestern Donetsk. The perspective of the video is facing north toward the burning factory.

The estimated perspective of the video showing the fire near the Donetsk chemical factory, facing north from the Lozovsky Cemetery. (Source: Google Earth).

There have been numerous fires and major explosions at the DKZKhI over the past three years, including an explosion in February 2017 that was covered by @DFRLab. After that explosion, Wim Zwijnenburg, the project leader for “humanitarian disarmament” projects at the Dutch organization PAX, told @DFRLab:

Depending on the source of the smoke, there will be likely acute health risk [sic] for those inhaling it. Pollution of groundwater and soil could result in long-term environmental damage and subsequent health risks, depending on quantity and types of chemicals present.
An earlier fire that occurred at the same Donetsk chemical factory. Photo originally published by @DFRLab in an earlier story. (Source: rusvesna.su)

Locals have been reacting to the explosion not so much with fear, but instead — as we see with many traumatic events in the Donbas —with a sense of familiarity, if not humor. In one of the largest online communities for Donetsk locals, in which the majority of users and administrators side with Russian-led separatists, the first reply to a thread on the explosion seems to represent how many in the region view large explosions near their homes:

Translation: “Yeah, like always, something is burning here :) We can’t have a single quiet or peaceful day….” (Source: VKontake user Andrey Lam)

Due to the illegal occupation of the non-government-controlled territory in the Donbas, it is not likely that international monitors will be able to assess the dangers of the smoke from the DKZKhI. This leaves local populations potentially exposed to long-term risks from both the immediate smoke and its lingering effects on soil and groundwater.


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