U.S. Veteran in Ukraine Alleges Russia Dropped Phosphorous Near Civilians

A U.S. veteran fighting in Ukraine against the Russians has claimed that Russia dropped phosphorus munitions —incendiary weapons that can burn flesh—near civilians.

James Vasquez, a former US Army staff sergeant from Connecticut, made the claims, which are unverified, in a tweet on Thursday.

He tweeted a picture of what he said was phosphorus being deployed in Ukraine.

"I have no idea where it landed exactly but I know it was in the direction of civilians and not us," Vasquez said.

White phosphorus is a toxic, wax-like substance that is yellow or colorless, that is made from phosphate rocks. It has a distinctive smell, and some have even said its odor is similar to garlic. It burns targets when used as a weapon, and it can also create huge smokescreens. Once ignited, is incredibly difficult to extinguish.

White phosphorus is not considered a chemical weapon under the U.N. Chemical Weapons Convention, but the use of phosphorus in war is meant to be tightly regulated under international law. But it is considered illegal to use white phosphorus near civilians.

The United States military has admitted to using white phosphorus in Iraq and Afghanistan, NPR reported. There have also been accusations of U.S. and Russian forces using it in Syria. Israel also used it in the 2008 Gaza war, but said in 2013 it had stopped.

Another person on Twitter posted a video on Thursday of what they say was an incendiary attack in Eastern Ukraine against Mariinka, a town of 10,000 people. The flares from the weapons looked very similar to what Vasquez claimed was white phosphorus.

Thermite, which is made up of metal powder and metal oxide, when ignited burns at up to 3,500°C. It can't be smothered or easily extinguished by water, and can ignite in any environment. During World War II, both Germany and the Allied forces used bombs containing thermite, inflicting massive damage on cities, especially those with many wooden buildings.

Newsweek has reached out to Vasquez and Russia's Foreign Ministry for comment.

The U.K.'s ministry of defense has previously warned that Russia might resort to using white phosphorus munitions in the war.

There have been reports that phosphorus ammunition has been used in the southeastern port city of Mariupol, which has been flattened by Russian bombardment and all but taken over by its military. Ukraine is investigating the claim that these munitions were used in Mariupol.

Both the Ukrainian and many Western nations, including the U.S., have accused Russian troops of committing war crimes.

The United States has said that the use of chemical weapons in the Ukraine conflict would provoke an aggressive response.

Ukraine soldiers in the east
A U.S. veteran fighting in Ukraine against the Russians has claimed that Russia dropped phosphorus munitions —incendiary weapons that can burn flesh—near civilians. Ukrainian soldiers unload their guns as they arrive at an abandoned building to rest and receive medical treatment after fighting on the front line for two months near Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine on April 30, 2022. Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP