Putin might resort to 'phosphorus bombs' in effort to seize Mariupol, UK warns

11 April 2022, 10:48

The UK has warned white phosphorus (left) could be used to attack besieged Mariupol
The UK has warned white phosphorus (left) could be used to attack besieged Mariupol. Picture: Getty

By Daisy Stephens

The UK's Ministry of Defence has warned Vladimir Putin may resort to using devastating 'phosphorous bombs' in his efforts to take the port city of Mariupol.

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In its latest intelligence update, the MoD warned Russian forces had used the devices in the Donetsk region of Ukraine.

"Russian forces prior use of phosphorous munitions in the Donetsk Oblast raises the possibility of their future employment in Mariupol as fighting for the city intensifies," said the MoD.

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White phosphorus is used for illumination at night or to create a smokescreen, but when it is deployed as a weapon it causes horrific burns.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has previously accused Russia of using the chemical.

Mr Zelensky used his nightly address on Sunday to warn Ukrainians to brace for a Russian onslaught in the country's east.

"Russian troops will move to even larger operations in the east of our state," he said.

"They can use even more missiles against us, even more air bombs. But we are preparing for their actions.

"We will respond. We will be even more active in providing Ukraine with weapons."

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Mariupol has been under near-constant assault from Russian troops since the war started nearly seven weeks ago.

It became a symbolic image of Russian aggression after a maternity unit in the city was bombed in March.

At least three people, including a six-year-old child, were killed, according to Ukrainian officials.

Photos from the scene showed heavily pregnant mothers trying to escape the wreckage.

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More recently, Moscow was said to have deployed mobile crematoriums in the city in an attempt to hide the scale of Russia's attacks.

Ukrainian officials said up to 10,000 people had been killed in the city.

The city's Mayor said Mariupol can no longer be compared to the tragedies in Chechnya or Aleppo, instead saying "this is the new Auschwitz and Majdanek".

'UK is probably the biggest supporter of Ukraine in the world right now.'

The UK MoD also said Russian assaults had continued in the Donetsk and Lukansk regions in the east of the country, but that Ukrainian troops were staging a strong response resulting in the "destruction" of Kremlin equipment.

"Russian shelling has continued in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, with Ukrainian forces repulsing several assaults resulting in the destruction of Russian tanks, vehicles, and artillery equipment," said the MoD.

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However it added that Russian tactics were reducing their ability to "discriminate when targeting", which means civilian casualties are more likely.

It said: "Russia’s continued reliance on unguided bombs decreases their ability to discriminate when targeting and conducting strikes while greatly increasing the risk of further civilian casualties."

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