The Russian military has sparked outrage for reportedly deployed TOS-1A heavy flamethrower systems to Ukraine, which experts say could be used to carry out war crimes if used against civilian targets.

“The TOS-1A heavy flamethrower system is designed for providing fire support to infantry and tanks, defeating enemy manpower from open and closed firing positions in a variety of offensive and defensive combat, as well as disabling light armored vehicles and transport,” a fact sheet states about the weapon. “Combined target destruction is achieved through effects of high temperature and overpressure.”

The paper states that the system is armed with “unguided artillery rockets with thermobaric warheads.”

A CNN camera crew spotted the weapons system on Saturday afternoon near the Ukrainian city of Belgorod. The report said that there was not yet any evidence that thermobaric weapons had been used during the invasion.

 “Thermobaric missiles contain a highly explosive fuel and chemical mix and send out supersonic blast waves that can rip buildings and bodies apart,” The Telegraph reported. “Moscow has previously employed them in Chechnya and Syria.”

Russia has now deployed TOS-1 launchers to the outskirts of heavily populated areas,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) wrote on Twitter. “Thermobaric weapons against civilian targets have zero military purpose. It would be a war crime aimed at terrorizing & slaughtering people into submission.”

“Rather grim intelligence briefings today on fears that Russians frustrated by unexpected resistance will unleash thermobaric weapons and indiscriminate shelling on Kyiv in a bid to break through with horrific consequences for civilians,” Catherine Philp, a correspondent for the Times of London, wrote on Twitter. “This is grim news if you’ve followed Russia’s military conduct in Syria and its use of these weapons in place like Aleppo. These are not weapons to be used on civilian populated centers. We are looking at war crimes.”

 “Thermobaric bombs are known as vacuum bombs,” Philp continued. “They suck oxygen into the blast and can cause awful internal injuries, especially to the lungs. We have seen this before from Russia, especially in Aleppo, Syria.”

A Western intelligence official told Philp: “My fear, I think, is that if that continues to be a scene where they are delayed, Russia uses indiscriminate use of indirect fire, particularly artillery systems, thermobaric weapons, which we know, the Russia [sic] has both in its armory, and has used in previous conflicts. My fear would be that if they don’t meet the timescales and objectives that they would, they will be indiscriminate in the use of violence.”

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