The longer this war lasts, the more likely it is that Russia will begin using their full arsenal of destructive weapons on the civilian population.
This is already happening in Kharkiv as a rocket attack on February 28 hit a neighborhood northeast of the city. One woman died in that attack – and it left 31 wounded – 16 of these were civilians. This is an example of what the Russians are prepared to do – bring in heavy towed and self-propelled artillery, multiple-launch rocket systems, and ballistic missile launchers, not to mention the full power of the Russian Air Force, to attack Kyiv and Kharkiv.
What the Russians Have Done to Civilians In Other Operations
The Russians have previously shown during their intervention in Syria that they would illegally target civilians with artillery aimed at residential sections of cities. In October, Russian artillery shells killed 12 civilians and injured 24 in the Syrian city of Ariha in Idlib governorate. In January, Russian Sukhoi warplanes bombed non-military targets in rebel-held Idlib. The Russian fighters destroyed a civilian water-works station, which showed their willingness to use its air force to inflict suffering. Over one million refugees eventually left Idlib.
Those are just two small examples in Syria. The overall duration of the Russian intervention was even more destructive to civilians. The Washington Post said that the Russians in Syria conducted “attacks on hospitals, schools, residential neighborhoods, and markets that killed thousands of civilians.”
Russia Strikes: Ukrainian Civilians Are Caught in Crossfire
During the war in Ukraine, Russia claims it has not targeted civilian targets, but so far, according to the Ukrainian Minister of the Interior, 352 Ukrainian civilians have died along with 1,684 wounded. This includes 14 dead children and 116 wounded kids.
Watch Out When Russia Unleashes Its Full Military Might
This number will only go higher after Russia continues to bomb Kharkiv and Kyiv. Russian fighters and bombers have not been used as much in the first days of the war, but they are expected to increase the sorties as Russia surrounds the two largest Ukrainian cities.
Russia Has Deadly Weapons Systems That Can Be Brought In
Russia’s artillery systems are especially lethal and can be deployed as Russia conducts its siege warfare. Scary flamethrower thermobaric rockets from the TOS-1 Buratino can light up cities in a kill zone roughly the size of two football fields.
Thermobaric, also called vacuum or fuel-aired explosives means that the TOS-1 rockets let out a chemical cloud that burns the air underneath it and sucks the life out of anyone where the rockets hit. The rocket launchers sit on a T-72 tank chassis. 24-tubes shoot the 220mm rockets. Each rocket weighs around 400-pounds.
The Koalitsiya-SV is a new Russian self-propelled howitzer that can travel in armored columns and be deployed around a city with devastating effects. This howitzer can fire 16 rounds per minute with its auto-loader.
The Uragan-1M rocket system can shoot 300mm rockets with 617-pound warheads up to 55-miles away.
Russia can deploy these weapon systems to devastating effect in a siege of the cities. The worrisome part is that these are indirect fire artillery systems – not precision-guided munitions – so civilians are bound to die or be wounded from collateral damage. They have large impact areas in which many citizens would be endangered. With these weapons, Putin can unleash the full fury of the Russian military.
The Russians have done it in Syria, and they will do it in Ukraine.
Now serving as 1945’s Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, Ph.D., is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood.