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Russia Today reported that residents of Slavyansk and its suburbs were awoken overnight on Thursday, the 12th of June 2014, by what they say were incendiary bombs that were dropped on their city by Kiev’s military. According to their sources witnesses and local media reports suggested that the bombs might be phosphorous. The village of Semyonovka, located in the Slavyansk suburbs, was set ablaze. According to Russia Today local residents told that the ground didn’t stop burning for some time.

“We all saw what happened here yesterday. They used rocket launchers as well as incendiary bombs against us. The ground was on fire. How can the ground burn by itself. It burned for about forty minutes,” resident Roman Litvinov told RT over the phone.

“Starting from 2 a.m. everyone I’ve met has a sore throat and is coughing all the time. I think this is because of the burning. I think we’ll feel the true consequences later. There are still a lot of people here, a lot of children we haven’t managed to get out yet,” resident Tatyana told RT.

White phosphorus is a material made from the chemical element phosphorus, and is used in smoke, tracer, illumination and incendiary munitions. As an incendiary weapon, white phosphorus burns fiercely and can ignite cloth, fuel, ammunition and other combustibles, as well as melt human skin. The use of incendiary bombs – designed to start fires using materials such as napalm, white phosphorus or other dangerous chemicals – is strictly regulated.

According to the Protocol on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Incendiary Weapons (Protocol III) from 1980 the use of  incendiary weapons is prohibited under certain circumstances. (Incendiary weapon means any weapon or munition which is primarily designed to set fire to objects or to cause burn injury to persons through the action of flame, heat, or combination thereof, produced by a chemical reaction of a substance delivered on the target):

  1. It is prohibited in all circumstances to make the civilian population as such, individual civilians or civilian objects the object of attack by incendiary weapons.
  2. It is prohibited in all circumstances to make any military objective located within a concentration of civilians the object of attack by air-delivered incendiary weapons.
  3. It is further prohibited to make any military objective located within a concentration of civilians the object of attack by means of incendiary weapons other than air-delivered incendiary weapons, except when such military objective is clearly separated from the concentration of civilians and all feasible precautions are taken with a view to limiting the incendiary effects to the military objective and to avoiding, and in any event to minimizing, incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects.
  4. It is prohibited to make forests or other kinds of plant cover the object of attack by incendiary weapons except when such natural elements are used to cover, conceal or camouflage combatants or other military objectives, or are themselves military objectives.

In 2009 Human Rights Watch published a 71-page report titled “Rain of Fire, Israel’s Unlawful Use of White Phosphorus in Gaza” and said that Israel’s usage of the weapon was illegal, because it was used in residential areas. The same could apply to the use of white phosphorus in residential areas of Slavyasnk. Residents found remains of shells which are now being investigated.

Moscow demanded an immediate investigation into the alleged use of incendiary bombs in Ukraine, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov Sergeji said on Tuesday. “The reports that the Ukrainian military fire bombs and other prohibited weapons allegedly used to make us very worried. These reports must be investigated immediately”, he said.

We are asking for an investigation about the use of incendiary weapons by the Ukrainian Army and if they were used against residential areas, which would violate international law and could be accountable as a war crime by the Ukrainian government.