The UK’s Ministry of Defense claimed Wednesday that Russia has admitted to using “vacuum bombs” in Ukraine.
In a tweet, the British agency said Russia confirmed it has used a mobile rocket-launching system typically equipped with the thermobaric warheads, which suck in the air around targets and can rupture their lungs.
“The Russian [Ministry of Defense] has confirmed the use of the TOS-1A weapon system in Ukraine. The TOS-1A uses thermobaric rockets, creating incendiary and blast effects,” the tweet said.
Thermobaric explosives differ from conventional explosives in that they use the oxygen around them to fuel combustion. This creates a higher-temperature explosion and a longer-duration, higher-pressure blast wave than a conventional bomb, making it particularly deadly in urban environments.
US officials had earlier confirmed the presence of thermobaric-capable launchers in Ukraine but couldn’t say whether they’d been used.
The Pentagon reiterated the point Wednesday when spokesman John Kirby was asked whether Russia had used the bombs. Kirby said the US has seen “no indications that thermobaric weapons [are being used], no evidence of that that I can speak to.”
CNN reported last week that its journalists inside Ukraine had seen launchers capable of firing the weapons.
Ukraine’s ambassador to the US, Oksana Markarova, also claimed last week that thermobaric bombs were in use by Russian forces.
The weapons are not prohibited under international law and are employed by most major militaries. Thermobaric explosives were used as so-called bunker busters by coalition forces in Afghanistan.
Russia has also used the weapons before to horrifying effect. Russians and Russian-backed forces in Syria reportedly used vacuum bombs against rebel forces in urban areas, often with catastrophic consequences for the civilian population.
As Ukrainian resistance to the Russian invasion has continued, Moscow’s forces have increasingly relied on rocket and artillery attacks, with the strikes largely focused on Ukrainian cities.
With Post wires