July 15, 2022

Incendiary Weapons in Ukraine?


Incendiary Weapons in Ukraine?
An example of a white phosphorus bomb mid-explosion during WWII. Wikimedia Commons, USAAF

On July 1, several videos posted online captured Russian aircraft deploying white phosphorus bombs over Snake Island. This is not the first time Russian forces have been accused of using incendiary weapons during their war on Ukraine.

Incendiary weapons are infamous for their large dispersion patterns and for the gruesome injuries they inflict upon both soldiers and civilians. Incendiaries are flammable weapons that may be used for smoke screens, setting fires, and lighting up in the dark.

White phosphorus, the chemical allegedly used in Ukraine, is an example of an incendiary agent, and can be used to fill incendiary bombs. The thick and waxy substance ignites with oxygen and is capable of burning human flesh down to the bone, reaching a temperature of some 800 degrees Celsius. According to Brian Castner, Amnesty International war crimes investigator, water will actually make phosphorus burns worse, so there is often nothing an individual can do to immediately help themselves or others.

While Russia has been accused of repeatedly using incendiary weapons like white phosphorus since February, there has been no official confirmation. But the March 2022, video clearly shows white phosphorus being deployed in Kramatorsk, which President Zelensky said killed civilians, including children. Pavlo Kyrylenko, governor of Donetsk, also said that white phosphorus was used during the siege of the Azovstal steel plant at Mariupol. Incendiary weapons are notoriously difficult to contain, and so the phosphorus can easily spill over from combat areas into civilian ones.

While the use of white phosphorus is not banned internationally, incendiary agents of its kind are prohibited from use in areas where civilians are present, according to the United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons signed by Ukraine, Russia, and 111 other countries.

           

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