Vacuum Bomb, Cluster Bombs: Putin Accused of War Crimes in Ukraine

The Ukraine ambassador to the United States claimed on Monday that invading Russian troops used a “vacuum bomb,” or thermobaric weapon. If true, the use of such a devastating weapon may constitute a war crime. They are also accused of using cluster bombs. The International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan has opened an immediate investigation.

They used the vacuum bomb today. The devastation that Russia is trying to inflict on Ukraine is large.

Oksana Markarova, Ukraine ambassador to the US

The report is being investigated, but as yet has not been verified. A TOS-1A Russian weapons launcher capable of firing thermobaric or “vacuum bomb” was reportedly spotted in Ukraine. The White House is waiting for verification before taking action.” What kind of action that would be is unclear.

Ukraine’s ambassador to the US and human rights groups said on Monday that Russia has been attacking the country with vacuum bombs and cluster bombs. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said that Russian troops are using widely banned cluster munitions. Amnesty also accused them of attacking a preschool where civilians had taken shelter.

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What is a vacuum bomb?

A thermobaric weapon, or vacuum bomb, is banned by 100 countries across the globe because it is significantly more devastating than conventional weaponry. It is often described as the “Father of all bombs” – FOAB. The vacuum bomb is also known as a fuel air explosive (FAE) or aerosol bomb.

vacuum bomb
Screenshot via BBC graphic

The first wave of the explosion spreads fuel around the area as a cloud. The next phase of the explosion ignites the fuel, sucking out the oxygen in the area (the vacuum) and leaving a huge fireball that lasts significantly longer than a normal weapon. It can vaporize the human body… and can penetrate caves, tunnels, buildings where people are hiding.

“The kill mechanism against living targets is unique–and unpleasant… What kills is the pressure wave, and more importantly, the subsequent rarefaction (vacuum) which ruptures the lungs…. If the fuel deflagrates but does not detonate, victims will be severely burned and will probably also inhale the burning fuel. Since the most common FAE fuels, ethylene oxide and propylene oxide, are highly toxic, undetonated FAE should prove as lethal to personnel caught within the cloud as most chemical agents.”

Defense Intelligence Agency report, 1993 via Human Rights Watch FOIA request

The largest Russian thermobaric bomb was tested in 2007. The United States also used such weapons in 2001 in an attempt dislodge Al-Qaeda from the mountains of Tora Bora.

Cluster bombs are widely banned and carry a large number of smaller explosives that can destroy an entire infantry unit on open ground.

To reiterate: the report by the Ukrainian official is unverified at this point. If it turns out to be true, Vladimir Putin could be tried as a war criminal. Good luck catching him for any trial.


H/T Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children


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Faye Higbee

Faye Higbee is the columnist manager for Uncle Sam's Misguided Children. All of her posts on Conservative Firing Line are also posted on Uncle Sam's.

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