Accusations that Russia may be using thermobaric weapons in Ukraine have raised fears about the potential devastation that could result from attacks with the so-called vacuum bombs.
Oksana Markarova, Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States, said Monday that the Russian military had used a vacuum bomb, which sucks oxygen from the air to trigger a huge explosion. Markarova did not provide additional details and NBC News has not independently verified that the weapon has been used in Ukraine, but Russian thermobaric rocket launchers have been photographed entering the country by a CNN team.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, tweeted Saturday that Russia had deployed vehicles with thermobaric weapons. A senior defense official who spoke on the condition of anonymity confirmed that the U.S. assessed that Russia had deployed launcher systems that could be used for thermobaric weapons, but could not confirm whether the warheads were present.
The accusation adds to mounting concerns voiced by several human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, that Russia is conducting indiscriminate attacks in densely populated civilian areas that could constitute war crimes.
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