In a video shared by Ukrainian member of Parliament Roman Hryshchuk on Twitter, Ukraine’s village of Ozerne, in the Donetsk region, appears to be hit by numerous incendiary weapons falling from the sky.
The spectacle resembles fireworks falling down in slow motion on the village’s homes.
“Ozerne village, Donetsk region. Ukraine. This is horrible,” wrote Hryshchuk in the post accompanying the clip, which has now been watched by over 225,000 people.
The Ukrainian MP did not confirm the date of the attack, but the location of the video has been confirmed to be Ozerne, thanks to comparison with images of the village offered by Google Maps.
Newsweek could not verify who shot the video or when, but has contacted Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense for comment.
Outrage exploded on Twitter in response to the video, with many saying that the substance falling from the sky over Ozerne was in fact white phosphorus, thermite or some sort of banned incendiary weapons.
Dr. Marina Miron from the Defence Studies Department of the King’s College London told Newsweek that the one portrayed in the undated video is certainly thermite, a mix of metal powder and metal oxide which can be used during conflict as an incendiary weapon in the same way as the more well-known napalm and white phosphorus.
“Both Ukraine and Russia have incendiary rockets,” Miron said.
“The video most certainly shows thermite, not phosphorus munitions. Similar attacks have been witnessed since 2014.
“But to name a more recent example, the Ukrainian side had accused Russian of using 9M22S incendiary munitions (these missiles—in contrast to 9M22—would have carried a different warhead, namely, 9H510, and were most likely fired from BM-21 Grad MLRS) against Popasna on March 12, 2022.”
These weapons were developed in the Soviet Union, according to Miron, “so they are not new by any means.”
Thermite has been used since World War II to disable artillery pieces without the use of explosive.
The use of thermite munitions, as well as napalm bombs, is not prohibited per se, but it’s limited to clearly defined military targets by Protocol III of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), due to the high humanitarian risk linked to such destructive incendiary weapons.
Thermite munitions can inflict painful burns on both troops and civilians and also cause respiratory injuries.
Miron said we should exercise caution before attributing the attack to Russia as we don’t have enough information about the attack yet.
“Now to figure out which side had used them remains unclear,” she said.
“Of course, we can deduce that it would make sense for the Russians to use them in the instance below, however, apparently these munitions have also been used in the city of Donetsk on July 23, 2022. Whether or not either side would use these on areas under their control cannot be determined with certainty,” she added.
“In the case of Ozerne one would assume that the Russian side is responsible for the attacks, while in the case of Donetsk—at least, due to numerous Russian allegations of indiscriminate attacks conducted by the Ukrainian Armed Forces, it would make sense for the Ukrainian side to use these. Therefore, I would be very careful trying to pin it to either side without having more information,” Miron said.
The town of Ozerne was reportedly liberated by Ukrainian ground troops on September 4 together with the nearby town of Yampil and the village of Vysokopillya in Kherson.
In his daily address to the nation on September 4, Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky praised the soldiers of the battalions which retook the three villages in strategic locations for Kyiv.
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