BAKHMUT, Ukraine — Residents frantically fought multiple house fires Sunday evening in the eastern city of Bakhmut after Russian troops fired incendiary munitions into their neighborhood, Ukrainian officials said.
In the aftermath of the attack, as residents collected empty canisters and small, black cylindrical capsules used in the attack, Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the civil military administration in Donetsk Province, said Russian forces had used incendiary weapons.
Bakhmut, in Donetsk Province, is an important military stronghold for Ukraine. Less than 10 miles from Russian lines, it is a likely target for Russia’s planned advance through the eastern Donbas region, and has grown used to almost daily bombardment. But Sunday’s strike was something less familiar, residents said — at least in a civilian area of the city.
Amid a barrage of explosions around 5 p.m., an arc of fireballs burst above the town and drifted down like flares in a fireworks display. Within minutes, black smoke rose from the neighborhood as roadsides, vegetation and houses were set ablaze.
Neighbors in shorts and sandals frantically pulled garden hoses toward a burning house. They hurled buckets of water at the flames as the rafters and tiled roof of a house cracked and popped.
The neighbors had left town weeks ago and there was no one inside, they said. At least seven houses and a large stretch of vegetation were burned.
A retired miner, Viktor, 67, watched from his house across the street. “I worked 20 years down the mines and this is what I get,” he said, then turned away, weeping. Like many residents he was reluctant to give his surname in time of war.
Off-duty police officers and soldiers arrived in small cars to help. They carried buckets of water, their arms and hands blackened from fighting another blaze down the street.
“It’s the first time we had this on the civilian part of Bakhmut,” said Katerina, 31, a social worker. Her neighbor, Olesia, 17, said they were used to the sound of multiple rocket launchers, commonly known as Grads here.
“We heard Grads and mortars before but this sounded different,” she said. “It was a light sound, like shoosh, shoosh, shoosh.”
Ukrainian officials said Russia had used incendiary weapons, which are primarily designed to set fire to objects or cause burn injuries, and are used by militaries around the world, including Russia’s and Ukraine’s. Their use is limited though not prohibited by international law.
As residents retrieved canisters and capsules from their gardens and streets, one of the soldiers said the canisters are fired by rockets, and advised residents to cover the capsules with sand and not use water to douse them.
“We get them on the front line all the time,” he said. “Now they got it here.” He did not give his name, in keeping with military protocol.
Kamila Hrabchuk contributed reporting.
Leave a Reply