The UK reveals Russia has admitted it's using thermobaric weapons in Ukraine

If so, the course of the conflict may look different.
Loukia Papadopoulos
The TOS-1 heavy flamethrower.Минобороны России/YouTube

There have been rumors circulating that Russia has been using the TOS-1 heavy flamethrower and thermobaric weapons on Ukrainian soil. Up until recently, however, nothing was confirmed.

On Wednesday, the UK's Ministry of Defense tweeted that Russia finally admitted to using the weapons that could be considered war crimes.

Russia finally admits the use of thermobaric weapons

"The Russian MoD has confirmed the use of the TOS-1A weapon system in Ukraine. The TOS-1A uses thermobaric rockets, creating incendiary and blast effects," said the tweet.

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For the uninitiated, thermobaric weapons, also called vacuum bombs, use up oxygen from the surrounding air to produce a high-temperature explosion of significantly longer duration than that of a traditional blast. They are so powerful that they can instantaneously vaporize human bodies.

The tweet was accompanied by a video illustrating exactly how thermobaric weapons work.

"The impact of the TOS-1A is devastating," the U.K.'s Ministry of Defense said in the video. "It can destroy infrastructure and cause significant damage to internal organs and flash burns, resulting in death to those exposed."

However, according to The Hill, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters later Wednesday that the U.S. military has still seen “no indications” that thermobaric weapons have been used.

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Are they illegal?

The international laws of armed conflict do not dictate that thermobaric weapons are illegal but they do state that they can't be used against military targets if their launch could also harm civilians. 

Last week, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told a press briefing she had seen reports of the weapons being used in Ukraine but had no absolute confirmation as of yet. "If that were true, it would potentially be a war crime," she added.

Will the UK's claim change the U.S.'s mind? And if so what will the country do about it?