Russia’s Defense Ministry admits using ‘lung-busting’ thermobaric ‘vacuum bombs’ in Chernihiv as Vladimir Putin grows increasingly frustrated by the slow pace of the invasion and the fierce Ukrainian resistance
- Britain’s Ministry of Defense and Ukrainian newspaper Ukrayinska Pravda both reported that Russia had confirmed using a thermobaric bomb
- The Soviet-era weapon launches rockets from atop a tank body; the rockets suck in surrounding oxygen, creating higher temperatures and extreme explosions
- The weapons are not illegal but under rules of engagement cannot be used against military targets if their launch could also harm civilians
- A Russian artilleryman, Sergeant Sergei Gubarev, told Russian state TV he had used the weapon on March 4 in the Chernihiv region
- Chernihiv, 80 miles north of Kyiv, remains the focus of heavy bombardment
- The day before the thermobaric bomb, 47 people died queuing for bread
PUBLISHED: 00:34 EST, 10 March 2022 | UPDATED: 04:36 EST, 10 March 2022
Russia has admitted to using a thermobaric ‘vacuum bomb’ in Ukraine, confirming widespread reports that the devastating weapons had been deployed.
Britain’s Ministry of Defense said on Tuesday that Moscow had announced the use of the ‘lung-busting’ weapons.
The Ukrainian newspaper Ukrayinska Pravda also said that a Russian artilleryman, Sgt. Sergei Gubarev, had told a state-owned TV station he had used the weapon.
Their information came from a report broadcast on Zvezda – a Russian state-owned nationwide television network run by the Russian Ministry of Defense.
Gubarev used the weapon on March 4 in the Chernihiv region, Pravda reported.
The town, 80 miles north of Kyiv, has been under heavy bombardment by the Russians.
The day before the thermobaric bomb was used, 47 civilians were killed in the town as they queued for bread at midday.
The Soviet-era weapon launches rockets from atop a tank body that suck in surrounding oxygen, creating higher temperatures and more damaging explosions that last longer than conventional blasts.
An abandoned TOS-1A thermobaric weapon is pictured, having been captured by Ukrainians
A thermobaric weapon is seen carried on a tank in Russia’s Victory Day parade of June 2020
Amnesty International said that the small public square formed by Chernihiv’s Viacheslava Chornovola and Kruhova streets was hit by multiple bombs, killing civilians and severely damaging nearby buildings, in what they said may constitute a war crime.
Thermobaric weapons are known formally as TOS-1A.
‘The impact of the TOS-1A is devastating,’ the U.K.’s Ministry of Defense said in the video.
‘It can destroy infrastructure and cause significant damage to internal organs and flash burns, resulting in death to those exposed.’
The Pentagon said on Wednesday it could not confirm the report, and they have still seen ‘no indications’ that thermobaric weapons have been used.
The wreckage of a Russian military aircraft is pictured on the outskirts of Chernihiv on March 5
Chernihiv, 80 miles north of Kyiv, remains a focus of fighting and is still under heavy bombardment
The mangled wreckage of the plane in Chernihiv, where a thermobaric bomb is believed to have been used
Men walk past a residential building destroyed by heavy shelling in Chernihiv on March 4
Homes in Chernihiv are pictured on March 4 – the day the thermobaric weapon was used
Chernihiv has been widely destroyed in the bombardment
Under international laws of armed conflict, thermobaric weapons are not illegal but cannot be used against military targets if their launch could also harm civilians.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., said last week: ‘We have seen videos of Russian forces moving exceptionally lethal weaponry into Ukraine which has no place on the battlefield.’
Russia, seemingly frustrated by the slow pace of the conflict and angered by the unexpectedly fierce resistance, has resorted to using increasingly barbaric methods to try and win the war.
On Wednesday a Russian airstrike devastated a maternity hospital in the besieged port city of Mariupol.
Ukrainian officials said the attack wounded at least 17 people.
The ground shook more than a mile away when the Mariupol complex was hit by a series of blasts that blew out windows and ripped away much of the front of one building.
Police and soldiers rushed to the scene to evacuate victims, carrying out a heavily pregnant and bleeding woman on a stretcher as light snow drifted down on burning and mangled cars and trees shattered by the blast.
Another woman wailed as she clutched her child. In the courtyard, a blast crater extended at least two stories deep.
‘Today Russia committed a huge crime,’ said Volodymir Nikulin, a top regional police official, standing in the ruins.
‘It is a war crime without any justification.’
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Mayor Serhii Sukhomlyn: Russian bombs hit two Zhytomyr hospitals
In Zhytomyr, a city of 260,000 to the west of Kyiv, bombs fell on two hospitals, one of them a children’s hospital, Mayor Serhii Sukhomlyn said on Facebook. No one was wounded, he said.
President Volodymyr Zelensky said the Mariupol strike trapped children and others under the rubble.
‘A children’s hospital. A maternity hospital. How did they threaten the Russian Federation?’ Zelenskyy asked in his nightly video address, switching to Russian to express his horror at the airstrike.
‘What kind of country is this, the Russian Federation, which is afraid of hospitals, afraid of maternity hospitals, and destroys them?’
He urged the West to impose even tougher sanctions, so Russia ‘no longer has any possibility to continue this genocide.’
Video shared by Zelenskyy showed cheerfully painted hallways strewn with twisted metal.
‘There are few things more depraved than targeting the vulnerable and defenseless,’ British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted, adding that Russian President Vladimir Putin will be held ‘to account for his terrible crimes.’
The World Health Organization said it has confirmed 18 attacks on health facilities and ambulances since the fighting began, killing 10 people. It was not clear if that number included the assault on the maternity hospital.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken condemned Russia’s ‘unconscionable attacks’ in a call with his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, the State Department said.
Two weeks into Russia’s assault on Ukraine, its military is struggling more than expected, but Putin’s invading force of more than 150,000 troops retains possibly insurmountable advantages in firepower as it bears down on key cities.
Despite often heavy shelling on populated areas, American military officials reported little change on the ground over the past 24 hours, other than Russian progress on the cities of Kharkiv and Mykolaiv.
The Biden administration warned that Russia might seek to use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine, rejecting Russian claims of illegal chemical weapons development in the country it has invaded.
This week, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova – without evidence – accused Ukraine of running chemical and biological weapons labs with U.S. support.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki called the claim ‘preposterous’ and said it could be part of an attempt by Russia to lay the groundwork for its own use of such weapons against Ukraine.
Britain’s Defense Ministry said fighting continued northwest of Kyiv.
Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Sumy and Mariupol were also being heavily shelled and remained encircled by Russian forces.
Russian forces are placing military equipment on farms and amid residential buildings in the northern city of Chernihiv, Ukraine’s military said.
In the south, Russians in civilian clothes are advancing on the city of Mykolaiv, a Black Sea shipbuilding center of a half-million people, it said.
The Ukrainian military, meanwhile, is building up defenses in cities in the north, south and east, and forces around Kyiv are ‘holding the line’ against the Russian offensive, authorities said.
Moment a Russian shell lands near a group of Ukrainian soldiers