The more people are injured or killed, the more Russiafight against UkraineMoscow faces growing accusations that it has used beam and vacuum weapons, which can put civilians at greater risk, especially when used in urban areas.
International human rights groups reported that cluster bombs fired by Russia appeared to hit a kindergarten in northeastern Ukraine and an area near a hospital in Kyiv-controlled eastern Donetsk region last week, causing Several civilians died.
Russian forces, according to Ukraine and human rights groups, have also used cluster munitions in airstrikes on Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city and the center of intense fighting between the forces. volume of Ukraine and Russia in recent days.
Video shared on social media shows a Russian thermobaric weapon launcher, commonly known as a “vacuum” weapon, rolling down the streets of Ukraine. A CNN team said they saw a Russian thermobaric missile launch south of Belgorod, Russia, near the border with Ukraine, on Saturday.
Oksana Markarova, Ukraine’s ambassador to the US, accused Russia of using “vacuum bombs” in their invasion.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said she had seen reports that Russia had used cluster bombs and vacuum bombs on civilians in Ukraine but was unable to confirm the accounts.
“If that’s true, it could be a war crime,” Ms. Psaki told a news conference on Monday.
It remains unclear whether Russia’s use of weapons to date constitutes a war crime, as that will depend on the legal question of the extent to which Russian forces minimize the risk to civilians. .
A senior US defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said yesterday that Russia had activated systems that “could be used for thermobaric weapons” in Ukraine but that US officials could not confirm the presence. or use such weapons in Ukraine.
The Kremlin denied that the Russian military used cluster munitions or vacuum bombs during the invasion.
Here’s what to know about weapons, their legality, and the threat they pose to civilians.
What are bombs, cluster munitions, and vacuum bombs?
Cluster bombs are not precision weapons. Missiles, bombs, or projectiles hurl them around as they fly, scattering small, indiscriminate bombs that hit a large area. These weapons are known for producing small bombs that can explode if they are disturbed, endangering civilians, including children, even after combat.
Last week, Human Rights Watch reported that a Russian ballistic missile carrying a cluster bomb struck near a hospital in Vuhledar, a town in the Donetsk region controlled by Kyiv in eastern Ukraine, on 24/2.
The organization said the attack killed four civilians, injured 10 others and damaged medical infrastructure. Human Rights Watch verified photographs showing remnants of the weapon believed to have been used – a 9M79 series Tochka missile with a 9N123 cluster warhead. Weapons in that series can have ranges up to 43 or 75 miles.
Part of what appears to be a Smerch missile – another weapon in Russia’s arsenal that can carry cluster bombs – landed on a playground in Kharkiv, according to video verified by washington articles and tested by experts. It is not clear whether the missile carried a single or cluster warhead.
Meanwhile, thermobaric weapons are designed to generate considerable heat and pressure. Missiles, launched from tanks, usually consist of a tank filled with fuel.
They explode in two stages: First, they deliver an aerosol consisting of microscopic fuel and metal components. The second charge then ignites the aerosol cloud, creating extreme heat and pressure and igniting oxygen in the area.
Explosive waves last longer than conventional blast waves.
They are called “vacuum” weapons because of the perception that they suck air out of a person’s lungs. That’s not exactly how they work, experts say. According to a report by Armament Research Services, they are more like explosions of gas or dust than vacuum, and the intense pressure they release causes trauma to the lungs.
The Russians call their TOS-1A thermobaric launch system – the kind they seem to have in Ukraine – a “flamethrower”. The soldiers nicknamed it “Buratino”, the Russian equivalent of Pinocchio.
The subheading accompanying the list of weapons on the website of Russia’s state arms export agency reads: “Will create hell for the enemy.”
Dan Wasserbly, head of Americas news for Janes, an open source defense intelligence agency, says thermobaric weapons are more accurate than the most powerful conventional bombs.
But vacuum weapons became famous because “you can’t hide” from them, he added, because the aerosol they release can permeate closed structures. That is why they are often used to target military positions in tunnels, fortifications, bunkers and caves. But in densely populated urban areas, they also easily kill civilians.
“Let’s say you have people hiding, maybe civilians, in a basement,” Wasserbly said. “That doesn’t protect them against things like this, because the aerosols go into the basement and catch on fire and people die a pretty gruesome death.”
Where and why are they banned?
An international treaty banning cluster weapons, the Cluster Munitions Convention, was adopted in Dublin in 2008 and entered into force in 2010. The treaty prohibits any use, production, possession or deliver cluster munitions and force nations to destroy all cluster munitions in their arsenals and pledge to clean up contaminated land.
More than 100 countries participate in the treaty, including more than 20 NATO member states. Russia and Ukraine – both possessing cluster weapons – did not participate.
According to Wasserbly, the US has also kept its name in the treaty, largely because of its plans to protect South Korea in the event of a North Korean attack based on cluster munitions. But the US “has largely tried to detox them,” he added.
Thermobaric weapons are not prohibited. But they pose a great risk to civilians when deployed in an urban environment, and an attack could constitute a war crime for a number of reasons, including the fact that civilians are targeted or if the attacker does not take steps to minimize the damage.
The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court on Monday said he would open an investigation “as quickly as possible” into war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine.
Where were the weapons used?
None of the 110 member states to the cluster munition treaty are known to have used the weapon since joining. But some countries that refused to add their names to the treaty have continued to use them, leaving a trail of civilian casualties.
Soviet forces used an earlier version of Russia’s contemporary thermobaric weapons in Afghanistan in the late 1980s. Russia is also accused of indiscriminately targeting groups of civilians with beam and foot weapons. not during the second conflict in Chechnya, from 1999 to 2005.
Human Rights Watch and other international watchdogs have documented the use of cluster munitions in eastern Ukraine by Ukrainian government troops and Russian-backed separatists between July 2014 and May. February 2015. Ukraine has denied using this weapon.
Human rights groups and monitoring groups have also documented the use of cluster munitions by Russian and Syrian forces in Syria, where the Kremlin backs President Bashar al-Assad. Cluster bombs have destroyed Syrian cities like Aleppo and caused thousands of casualties and hundreds of children. Russian-made thermobaric weapons are also believed to have been used in Syria.
Civilians “remain the primary victims of cluster munitions at the time of attacks and after the conflict ends” around the world, according to the Cluster Munition Coalition, which oversees the use of cluster munitions. this weapon globally.
Meanwhile, thermobaric weapons have been used by the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The alleged use of cluster weapons and vacuum bombs in Ukraine has raised fears that the conflict is entering a more dangerous phase, especially if Russia makes widespread use of these weapons in other regions. city of Ukraine.
“There are no good bombs – it’s all bad news,” Mr Wasserbly said. “The only reason they attract so much criticism is the indiscriminate nature of how they work.” “Because we’re talking urban warfare here, the potential for collateral damage and civilian casualties is high.”
https://www.independent.ie/world-news/explainer-what-are-cluster-and-vacuum-weapons-and-has-russia-used-them-in-the-past-41403258.html Explainer: What are beam and vacuum weapons, and has Russia used them in the past?