Moscow has said the facility was apparently used to make highly toxic hydrogen cyanide

The Russian Defense Ministry has released footage of military personnel inspecting what it says is a makeshift Ukrainian laboratory used to produce substances that could become chemical weapons. 

On Monday, Lieutenant General Igor Kirillov, who leads Russia’s chemical and biological defense forces, said that the facility was discovered near Avdeevka in the Donetsk People’s Republic. The town was liberated by Russian forces in February. 

According to Kirillov, traces of sulfuric acid and sodium cyanide, as well as cyanide anions – poisonous chemical compounds of the cyano group – were found at the site. Sulfuric acid and sodium cyanide can be used to produce hydrogen cyanide – a highly toxic agent that was used as a chemical weapon during World War I.

Footage released by the military shows a serviceman wearing a hazmat suit and a gas mask collecting samples from various pieces of equipment and containers. He examines a glass jar containing what looks like a yellowish solid substance. A large piece of equipment that appears to be a chemical reactor is also seen in the video.

The Russian serviceman in the video is using a portable chemical analyzer. The clip goes on to show the collected samples arriving at a Russian military site. 

According to the Defense Ministry, the laboratory was located in a partially destroyed building filled with debris, and had a large number of empty containers inside. 

In his Monday briefing, Kirillov stated that the Russian military has recorded at least two cases of the possible use of hydrogen cyanide by Ukraine forces. In May 2024, civilians in the Avdeevka region showed symptoms consistent with hydrogen cyanide poisoning, he said. The general added that traces of the chemical were also found on ammunition fragments in Russia’s Belgorod Region.

READ MORE: Ukraine violated Chemical Weapons Convention – Russian MOD

In 2022, Russia accused Ukraine of running a secret biological weapons program and having plans to obtain a nuclear weapon. Kiev has denied having any weapons of mass destruction. The US has backed Ukraine, calling Russia’s claims “absurd.” 

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