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Russian army willing to unleash any level of violence says Colonel
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Russian aggression in Ukraine has appeared to ramp up in recent days, with a vicious bombardment of Kharkiv – a city in northeast Ukraine – taking place on Monday night. An estimated 40-mile-long armoured convoy has also been pictured moving slowly towards the capital Kyiv, prompting concerns that a brutal assault is imminent.
On Monday, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch both said that Russian forces appeared to have used widely banned cluster munitions.
The former has also accused Moscow of attacking a preschool in northeast Ukraine while civilians took shelter inside.
After a meeting with members of the US Congress, Ukraine’s ambassador to the country, Oksana Markarova, said Russia had used a thermobaric weapon – known as a vacuum bomb – in the ongoing conflict.
She said: “They used the vacuum bomb today. The devastation that Russia is trying to inflict on Ukraine is large.”
A vacuum bomb, or thermobaric weapon, sucks in oxygen from the surrounding air to generate a high-temperature explosion.
Typically, it produces a blast wave of a significantly longer duration than that of a conventional explosive and is capable of vaporising human bodies.
At this point, there has been no official confirmation that thermobaric weapons have been used in the conflict in Ukraine.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said she had seen reports but did not have confirmation that Russia had used such weapons.
She told reporters: “If that were true, it would potentially be a war crime.”
Ms Psaki noted that there were international organisations to assess whether the weapons were used, and US President Joe Biden’s administration “would look to be a part of that conversation”.
Amnesty International said international humanitarian law prohibits the use of inherently indiscriminate weapons such as cluster munitions.
Launching indiscriminate attacks that kill or injure civilians constitutes a war crime.
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Meanwhile, an overnight bombardment of Kharkiv, the second largest city in Ukraine, has led to the deaths of dozens civilians.
Russian missiles and rockets separately targeted a number of buildings in the city’s Freedom Square, on Tuesday, prompting Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to condemn the attacks as amounting to state terrorism.
An opera house, concert hall and Government offices were all hit during the attack.
At least 20 people including a child were injured, but authorities are still trying to clarify the death toll.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the “tragedy” that the UK and others predicted has now come to pass with Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Speaking alongside Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki at a press conference in Warsaw the PM called it an unfolding disaster on the European continent, with Poland also on the frontline.
He added that “it is clear Putin is prepared to use barbaric and indiscriminate tactics against innocent civilians to bomb tower blocks, to send missiles into tower blocks to kill children”.
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