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Ukraine says Russia shelled chemical plant as it rejects surrender option in Mariupol

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Ukraine’s prosecutor general said a Russian shell struck a chemical plant outside the city of Sumy a little after 3 a.m. Monday, causing a leak in a 50-ton tank of ammonia that took hours to contain.

Russian military spokesman Igor Konashenkov claimed the leak was a “planned provocation” by Ukrainian forces to falsely accuse Russia of a chemical attack.

Konashenkov also said an overnight cruise missile strike hit a Ukrainian military training center in the Rivne region. He said 80 foreign and Ukrainian troops were killed.

Vitaliy Koval, the head of the Rivne regional military administration, confirmed a twin Russian missile strike on a training center there early Monday but offered no details about injuries or deaths.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials defiantly rejected a Russian demand that their forces in Mariupol lay down arms and raise white flags Monday in exchange for safe passage out of the besieged strategic port city.

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Even as Russia intensified its attempt to bombard Mariupol into surrender, its offensive in other parts of Ukraine has floundered. Western governments and analysts see the broader conflict grinding into a war of attrition, with Russia continuing to barrage cities.

In the capital Kyiv, Russian shelling devastated a shopping center near the city center, killing at least eight people and leaving a sea of rubble amid scarred high-rises. Ukrainian authorities also said Russia shelled a chemical plant in northeastern Ukraine, causing an ammonia leak, and hit a military training base in the west with cruise missiles.

The encircled southern city of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov has seen some of the worst horrors of the war, under Russian pounding for more than three weeks. Strikes hit an art school sheltering some 400 people only hours before Russia’s offer to open two corridors out of the city in return for the capitulation of its defenders, according to Ukrainian officials.

Ukrainian officials rejected the Russian proposal for safe passage out of Mariupol even before Russia’s deadline of 5 a.m. Moscow time (0200GMT) for a response came and went.

“There can be no talk of any surrender, laying down of arms,” Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk told the news outlet Ukrainian Pravda. “We have already informed the Russian side about this.”

Mariupol Mayor Piotr Andryushchenko also quickly dismissed the offer, saying in a Facebook post he didn’t need to wait until the morning deadline to respond and cursing at the Russians, according to the news agency Interfax Ukraine. ~AP

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