The story so far: Russia has been accused of using deadly vacuum bombs, also called thermobaric bombs or fuel-air explosives, during its ongoing invasion of neighbouring country Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin had on February 24, 2022 announced a military operation in Ukraine.
Claims of the use of vacuum bombs have not been officially verified, but ground reports suggest that Russian thermobaric rocket launchers have been spotted in Ukraine.
Russian spokesperson Dmitry Peskov has refuted the claims and stated that Kremlin has not used cluster munitions and vacuum bombs in Ukraine.
What is a vacuum bomb?
A vacuum bomb is an advanced weapon of destruction that is capable of destroying reinforced buildings and vaporising human bodies within its area of impact.
The bomb consists of a fuel container and two separate explosive charges. When a vacuum bomb hits the target, the first charge ignites the container and disperses the fuel that mixes with oxygen in the air. The second charge detonates this fuel cloud, causing shockwaves and high-temperature explosion. The detonation of the cloud creates a massive fireball, sucking all the oxygen in the blast radius.
The fuel cloud can penetrate unsealed or poorly-sealed buildings, making the bomb far more dangerous than conventional weapons.
A vacuum bomb can be launched as a rocket or dropped from an aircraft.
Russia’s TOS-1 heavy flamethrower that shoots thermobaric rockets was spotted south of Belgorod on Saturday. Belgorod is a Russian city situated near the Ukraine border and it is believed that the flamethrower was being deployed to be used in the ongoing invasion.
Are there any past instances of the use of vacuum bombs?
The first reported use of vacuum bombs dates back to the Second World War when it was initially used by the German Army.
Since then, vacuum bombs have undergone further development, primarily by the U.S. and the erstwhile Soviet Union. The U.S. used fuel-air explosives during the Vietnam War and against Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Russia has also been accused of using the deadly explosives during fighting in Chechnya in 1999.
Russia tested its powerful “Father of All Bombs”, officially the Aviation Thermobaric Bomb of Increased Power, in 2007. The vacuum bomb is equivalent to 44 tonnes of T.N.T. According to the Russian military, it is the mightiest bomb to be ever created.
What is the current situation in Ukraine?
More than 350 civilians, including 14 children, have been killed during the Russian invasion of Ukraine so far. More than half a million people have reportedly fled the country as Russia continues to batter its neighbour with on-ground onslaught and airstrikes. According to the United Nations, around 8,36,000 refugees have fled Ukraine since Russia’s military operation began.
India has issued an urgent advisory for its citizens that are still in Ukraine, urging them to leave Kharkiv and reach Pesochin, Babaye and Bezlyudovka.
The first round of talks between diplomats of Russia and Ukraine concluded February 28, 2022 with no conclusive result. The countries have agreed to hold another round.