As Russia labors to destroy Ukrainians’ will to fight as well as that nation’s cities, it is turning to weapons that have been labeled as “potentially a war crime.”
New videos have emerged that indicate Russia is using thermobaric rockets fired from a weapon known as the TOS-1A Solntsepek in its effort to break through Ukrainian resistance, according to the U.K.’s Mirror.
The outlet said it was uncertain whether the footage of the weapon, which can melt human organs, was taken in Ukraine or was being used for propaganda purposes.
Rus Ordusu tarafından Ukrayna hedeflerine yönelik olarak gerçekleştirilen Tos-1A Çok Namlulu Roketatar (ÇNRA) atışları… pic.twitter.com/lI0x42eyV2
— SavunmaSanayiST.com (@SavunmaSanayiST) March 19, 2022
“The TOS-1A Solntsepek was used against Ukrainian nationalists by the people’s militia of the Donetsk People’s Republic with the support of the Russian army during a special operation in Ukraine,” Russia’s Ministry of Defense said earlier this month.
The Russian MoD has confirmed the use of the TOS-1A weapon system in Ukraine. The TOS-1A uses thermobaric rockets, creating incendiary and blast effects.
Watch the video below for more information about this weapon and its devastating impact.
🇺🇦 #StandWithUkraine🇺🇦 pic.twitter.com/d8PLQ0PhQD
— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) March 9, 2022
When the issue of thermobaric or vacuum weapons was raised during a Feb. 28 news briefing, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the use of them was “potentially a war crime.”
Thermobaric missiles explode at a far greater temperature than most weapons and cause more sustained and lethal explosions. The heat they produce can cause flash burns and massive damage to internal organs.
In an article last year headlined “Thermobaric Weapons: The Horrific Way Russia Could ‘Melt’ an Army in a War,” military expert Sebastian Roblin wrote that a “TOS-1 rocket barrage will wipe out everything within the two-hundred-by-three-hundred-meter blast zone.”
“This is problematic when the weapon is employed against targets amid an urban civilian population,” Roblin said.
“It’s a particularly nasty weapon,” John Tierney, executive director at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, said, according to ABC News.
“It’s a terrible way to die,” he said. “It has a really broad effect and is probably most useful against hardened facilities.”
In the more than three weeks since Russia invaded Ukraine, almost 900 Ukrainian civilians have been reported killed, according to NBC News. Overall, the casualty toll among civilians killed and wounded has topped 2,000.
“Most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple-launch rocket systems, and missile and air strikes,” the United Nations Human Rights Office said in a report on Saturday.
From 24 Feb—18 March, we recorded 2,246 civilian casualties in context of Russia’s armed attack against #Ukraine: 847 killed, incl 64 children; 1,399 injured, incl 78 children, mostly caused by shelling & airstrikes. Actual toll is much higher. Full update https://t.co/g7O1JLgmky pic.twitter.com/aN399jikz5
— UNHumanRightsUkraine (@UNHumanRightsUA) March 19, 2022
The southern city of Mariupol is among the hardest hit, according to The New York Times.
On Thursday, Russia targeted a theater where an estimated 1,300 people were taking refuge.
Nothing says more about the crass brutality of Putin's war in Ukraine than this satellite image of the bombed remains of Mariupol Drama Theatre. Shelter for victims of his war, "CHILDREN" written outside so clearly that it's visible from space, and still it was bombed. pic.twitter.com/c20fwa2guH
— Eliot Higgins (@EliotHiggins) March 19, 2022
On Sunday, it struck a school where 400 people were taking shelter.