Dmytro Firtash’s DPR Chemical Plant “Stirol” as Potential Site of Russian Chemical Weapons Provocation

Last week I blogged on how Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu had claimed that Russia was the victim in a global information war, and how that narrative had many parallels to previous Russian denials of chemical weapons attacks for which Russia bears clear responsibility. Additionally, Shoigu’s remarks on information war had come just weeks after he foretold chemical weapons provocations by American agents in Ukraine in a context which evoked prior disinformation narratives about the White Helmets in Syria [1].

It was reported yesterday that US officials have claimed that Russian operatives may be planning a “false flag” attack in the Donbas as a provocation to justify a broader invasion of Ukraine [2].

This morning, Ukrainian intelligence sources warned:

According to the military intelligence of Ukraine, on January 14, tanks with ammonia were delivered to Gorlovka [Horlivka], occupied by Russian troops, at Concern Stirol PJSC, from which, due to a leak, toxic substances are leaking into the atmosphere.  The man-made disaster caused by the actions of the Russian invaders can be used to accuse Ukraine of using toxic chemicals and as a pretext for expanding armed aggression against our state.” [3]

Interestingly, the Stirol plant was previously the site of an August 6, 2013 disaster in which 5 people were killed and 23 injured due to an ammonia leak (video below). It seems to have been non-operational since the 2014 Russian invasion.

The plant seems to have been partially reopened by separatists in November 2021 [4].

At the time of the 2013 disaster, it was already owned by controversial Putin-connected Ukrainian businessman Dmytro Firtash (Dmitry Firtash) [5]. (In recent years, Firtash has become well-known in America in relation to relatively transparent Russian disinformation efforts targeting both Ukraine and the Joe Biden campaign/administration and so here we find yet another “information warfare” link.)

In 2012, Firtash’s ownership of the plant was reported on in the tongue-in-cheek context of “chemical warfare”, although this has been meant in a more economic context since it is an important chokepoint in the global ammonia supply (the analogy seems similar to Russia’s use of gas pipelines to control energy prices in an economic warfare context often referred to as an “energy weapon”) [6].

Since around the same time that Sergei Shoigu himself began to claim that America was planning a chemical weapons provocation in December 2021, pro-separatist disinformation outlets seem to have begun talking about “ammonia” in a chemical warfare context as well in regions such as Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) where the Horlivka plant is located.

Member of Parliament of the DPR Vladislav Berdichevsky was reported as saying of imminent chemical weapons hostilities and poisoned water supplies: “A strange smell of water was observed for several weeks, the presence of ammonia and other chemicals was felt.” [7]

I don’t like to put my chips on the line for predictions, but this is certainly a case where I hope I am wrong that there is a connection worth anticipating.

References

[1] Michael Hotchkiss, “Sergei Shoigu Claims Russia is Victim in Information War”, n01r.com, January 9 2022, https://n01r.com/sergei-shoigu-claims-russia-is-victim-in-information-war/

[2] Shannon Vavra, “U.S. Claims Putin Is Preparing a False Flag Operation to Justify Ukraine Attack”, The Daily Beast, January 14 2022, https://www.thedailybeast.com/us-claims-vladimir-putin-is-preparing-a-false-flag-to-justify-ukraine-attack

[3] “В Горловке может произойти техногенная катастрофа, в которой обвинят Украину – разведка “ (“A man-made disaster may occur in Gorlovka, in which Ukraine will be blamed – intelligence”), Ukrainian Truth, January 15 2022,  https://www.pravda.com.ua/rus/news/2022/01/15/7320506/

[4] Olga Konovalova, “Оккупационные власти “ДНР” хвастаются запуском химзавода Фирташа “Стирол”” (“Occupation authorities of “DPR” boast about the launch of Firtash’s “Stirol” chemical plant”), Depo.ua, November 18 2021, https://dn.depo.ua/rus/donetsk/okupatsiyna-vlada-dnr-khvalitsya-zapuskom-khimzavodu-firtasha-stirol-202111181392184

[5] “2013 Chemical Accident in Horlivka”, Wikipedia, Accessed January 15 2022, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_Chemical_accident_in_Horlivka

[6] “Химическая война с Россией: что задумал Дмитрий Фирташ” (“Chemical warfare with Russia: what Dmitry Firtash is up to”), Centre for Transport Strategies, January 12 2012,  https://cfts.org.ua/articles/41286

[7] [DISINFORMATION] Американцы готовят Донбассу химатаки по сирийскому образцу” (“Americans prepare Syrian-style chemical attacks for Donbass”), Vz.ru, December 21 2021, https://vz.ru/politics/2021/12/21/1135405.html

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