What is this incendiary, the phosphorus bomb, allegedly used by the Russians?

The use of these weapons by civilians is prohibited by Protocol III of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. However, Moscow has been accused of using it to bomb the town of Irpin.

In the sky, their ominous arrival is signaled by numerous bright pillars that fall to the ground like fireworks. White phosphorus shells can burn up to 1300 degrees and are used in conflict for a variety of strategic purposes and can cause serious burns to people under fallout.

On Tuesday, Irpin’s mayor Oleksandr Markouchin accused Russian troops of using this type of weapon in his commune on the outskirts of Kyiv. To support his claim, he provided some photographs in which the characteristic clouds caused by these bombs clearly appear.

If these accusations are confirmed, they mark a crossing of new stages of attack Currently leading Russia in Ukraine..

Burns “Very serious and pretty disgusting to look at”

The origin of these weapons dates back to the 19th century and was used by Irish nationalists. After that, they began to spread to the western army from World War I. Since then, they have been used many times by Russians during the two wars in Chechnya, or by Americans in Fallujah, Iraq in 2004.

They are based on the pyrophoric chemical element white phosphorus. In other words, it ignites when it comes in contact with air.

“These weapons have a fairly large terrorist capability. When in contact with air, phosphorus becomes very hot and causes a fire. With civilians nearby, this is a very serious burn and a very very. Causes an abominable side, “details of BFMTV Olivier Lepick, Deputy Research Fellow of the Strategic Research Foundation.

For researchers, these “incendiary bombs” can also have the strategic purpose of “generating smoke to hide the operation.” But also, as BFMTV’s international political columnist Patrick Sauce showed, to use the large luminescent charges released to illuminate the battlefield.

Used by Ukrainian Russians?

The mayor of Irpin’s is official, and the Russians certainly used the phosphorus bomb in his town. “It’s scary, but it turns out that Russia has exceeded all the bans, the limits of all possibilities and impossibility. It’s no surprise that they are using phosphorus weapons,” he said. Told.

Images sent by Mayor Irpin show the bombing of Lynn, according to him.
Images sent by Mayor Irpin show the bombing of Lynn, according to him © BFMTV screenshots

BFMTV defense consultant Michel Goya analyzed the images sent by the mayor. According to him, “when we have a lot of phosphorus, that means we’re burning something and we’re going to burn people,” he decides.

For Patrick Source, these weapons, like many other troops in the world, are “part of Russian weapons.” “We’ve come to the point where the Russians tell us. We tried to go to the ground but it didn’t work. We tried it with a bomb but it didn’t work. So the building Send a cannonball to make a hole in it, then send a phosphorus. In them to burn what’s inside, “he explains.

Russian troops reportedly bombed the town of Idium, south of Kalkif, with phosphorus, as the French ambassador to Ukraine claimed. Local governments are currently investigating to determine the authenticity of this information.

However, Olivier Lepick warns. “At this stage, you have to be very careful. It’s too early to draw conclusions. Even if these weapons have very accurate characteristics, they can be identified.”

War crime?

But what does international law say about their use? If the Russian army’s use of Irpin’s and Izyum is confirmed, does this constitute a war crime?

“These weapons are in a somewhat vague area of ​​law of war. (…) The UN Convention condemns their use in areas of high civilian population, but not chemical weapons, but wartime. Not prohibited by international law, “says Olivier Repic.

Incendiary weapons with phosphorus shells are in fact compliant with Protocol III of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. The text states that “military purposes located in the concentration of civilians are prohibited under all circumstances from being attacked by incendiary weapons launched from aircraft.”

By “civilian concentration”, the Protocol means “permanent or temporary concentration of civilians, such as those present in the town’s area of ​​residence or in the town or village in which it resides.”

Therefore, the use of phosphorus shells by Russian troops in Irpin, which is home to 62,000 inhabitants, can be likened to an attack prohibited by the law of war, especially since the apartment buildings can be seen under the rays of light. Submitted by Mayor Oleksandr Markouchine.

Fear of escalation

But again, be careful. Protocol III prohibits civilians from being “targeted for incendiary weapons”, but prohibits the use of these weapons in civilian areas to achieve strategic objectives such as ambient lighting. Is not …

“Russians are in the gap. The ban is about use against civilians. But if they confirm that they used phosphorus, they would say it was against nationalists, the enemy. In addition, in Arpin, it was between 2,000 and 3,000 inhabitants left a week ago, so they would claim that only fighters remained inside, “Patrick Source analyzes. “The devil is in the details,” he concludes.

The most worrisome thing for observers is the increased use of phosphorus. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they used nuclear weapons against Ukraine,” the mayor of Irpin has declared fatally.