Ukraine has accused Russia of using phosphorus-based munitions to bombard the besieged city of Bakhmut.
In drone footage released by the Ukrainian military, the city of Bakhmut is ablaze as what appears to be white phosphorus pours down upon it.
Although white phosphorus munitions are not prohibited, their use in civilian areas is a war crime.
They cause flames that spread rapidly and are extremely difficult to extinguish. Russia has previously been accused of employing them.
Russia has spent months attempting to capture Bakhmut, despite its doubtful strategic value. According to estimates by Western officials, thousands of Russian soldiers perished during the assault.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Defence stated on Twitter that the phosphorus assault targeted “unoccupied areas of Bakhmut with incendiary ammunition”
The command of Kyiv’s special forces added that Moscow’s forces continued to “demolish the city.”
It is unclear precisely when the alleged attack occurred. However, the footage shared by Ukraine, which appeared to have been captured by a surveillance drone, showed skyscrapers enveloped in flames.
Other social media footage depicted fires raging on the ground and phosphorus clouds illuminating the night sky.
The footage was captured in an area just west of Bakhmut’s city center and near a children’s hospital. While the analysis verified the use of incendiary weapons, it was unable to confirm the use of phosphorus.
Since launching its full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year, Russia has been repeatedly accused of using white phosphorus, including during the siege of Mariupol at the outset of the conflict.
Moscow has never publicly acknowledged using white phosphorus, and last year after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky claimed it had been used, Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov insisted, “Russia has never violated international conventions.”
White phosphorus is a substance resembling wax that ignites in the presence of oxygen, producing brilliant plumes of smoke.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has issued a warning that the chemical is “infamous for the severity of injuries it causes.”
It burns at 800 degrees Celsius and is capable of inflicting severe burns on human tissues. Additionally, it is incredibly tenacious and difficult to remove, and it can reignite when bandages are removed.
Russia joined the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, which bans incendiary weapons in populated areas.
HRW claims the treaty does not protect white phosphorus because it “conceals military operations with a smokescreen.”
HRW claims that US soldiers in Iraq and Syria have “repeatedly” employed the chemical.
According to some analysts, its use as an incendiary weapon near civilians would remain unlawful. Although Bakhmut had an estimated pre-war population of 80,000, there are now virtually no civilians in the region.
The assault occurs one day after the commander of Russia’s Wagner paramilitary group announced that he would withdraw his forces from Bakhmut on May 10 due to a dispute over ammunition supplies.
Yevgeny Prigozhin stated that Wagner’s casualties were “growing in a geometric progression every day” and blamed the defense ministry for his decision to withdraw from Bakhmut.
Wagner was redeploying mercenaries towards Bakhmut in an attempt to capture the city before Tuesday’s Victory Day celebrations in Russia, according to senior Ukrainian officials.
On Ukrainian television, Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar stated, “We now see them pulling fighters from the entire offensive line where the Wagner fighters were and pulling them in the Bakhmut direction.”
According to reports, Ukraine is preparing to launch a large-scale counteroffensive within the next few weeks. According to Prigozhin, the assault could occur as early as May 15th.
A possible offensive could occur in the Zaporizhzhia region, which is roughly 80 percent under Russian control.
On Friday, the Russian-appointed Zaporizhia governor ordered the evacuation of front-line towns.
Following self-proclaimed referendums and illegitimate annexation last year, Russia views the region as its territory.