There is no evidence that the Ukrainian army used white phosphorus

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On February 27, 2022, the website Sputnik published an article on the alleged use of banned ammunition in Ukraine. The article is entitled:

Russian Ministry of Defense: Ukrainian forces use phosphorus ammunition

According to the article, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation said that units of the Ukrainian army used ammunition filled with white phosphorus.

The Ukrainian army, desperate to curb the offensive of Russian troops, has started the mass use of phosphorus-filled ammunition in the suburbs of Kyiv near the Gostomel airport, said the Russian Ministry of Defense’s spokesman, Igor Konashenkov.

The Ministry pointed out that Ukrainian forces use 122-mm grenades for D-30 howitzers and Soviet-made missiles for BM-21 “Grad” systems, despite this ammunition being prohibited by the third protocol of the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.

The article does not present any evidence for this claim, nor does it state the reaction of the Ukrainian side.

The claim that the Ukrainian army used bombs filled with white phosphorus was published in several other articles in the media from our speaking area, featuring comments from various military experts. On February 28, 2022, the website Novosti published an article entitled:

CREEPY “NAZI METHODS” OF THE UKRAINIAN ARMY: Military expert reveals details of attack on Russian paratroopers

The article conveys the claims of the Russian military analyst Viktor Baranets.

The use of phosphorous grenades by the Ukrainian army not only testifies to their complete helplessness, but it can also mean that its command will be tried at international tribunals, Baranets said in an interview with PolitExpert.

On February 28, 2022, professor Momcilo Milinovic commented for Sputnik on the alleged use of weapons with white phosphorus. In the article, Milinovic comments on the potential power of such weapons, and the article is entitled:

Professor Milinovic: Ukrainians have resorted to terrible weapons that are – forbidden

He also stated that “it should not be forgotten that Ukraine exported these weapons to Israel”.

What is a weapon with white phosphorus?

According to a document from the US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, white phosphorus is a colorless, white or yellow waxy solid. This substance does not form naturally and is produced from phosphate rocks. According to the Agency, the substance reacts quickly with oxygen and is easily flammable at high temperatures.

“White phosphorus is used by the army in various types of ammunition, to produce smoke to cover the movement of troops and to identify targets”, the document said.

As Reuters points out in an article from May 8, 2009, such weapons are considered flammable. Flammable weapons are defined in the Third Protocol to the Convention on Certain Conventional WeaponsThe third protocol, which refers to the prohibition and restriction of flammable weapons, prohibits the use of such weapons against military targets among civilians. Ukraine is a signatory to this convention.

Has this weapon been used in Ukraine?

The claim that the Ukrainian army used weapons filled with white phosphorus came from the Russian Ministry of Defense. It was taken over from this source mainly by the media that exclusively repeat the official Russian narrative, such as the Russian news agency Tass and the mentioned Sputnik.

The credible world media did not publish these allegations. International organizations in Ukraine, such as the OSCE, did not comment on these claims.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) launched the Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) on 21 March 2014. According to its official website, this is a civilian mission “which is present on the ground 24/7 in all regions of Ukraine. Its main tasks are to observe and report in an impartial and objective manner on the situation in Ukraine and to facilitate dialogue between all parties to the crisis”. The teams of this mission are deployed in several Ukrainian areas.

This OSCE mission publishes daily reports on the security situation in Ukraine. The Russian media published the news about the alleged use of ammunition with white phosphorus near the Gostomel airport on February 27, 2022. OSCE’s daily reports for February 252627, and 28 do not mention phosphorous ammunition or Gostomel airport.

Allegations that the Ukrainian army uses or exports phosphorus bombs have appeared before. During May 2015, there were also allegations that Ukraine used bombs filled with white phosphorus in Donbas. However, the OSCE mission stated in a report from May 20, 2015, that it “was unable to confirm” the use of phosphorus ammunition “based on available evidence and on-the-spot analyzes”.

In November 2020, allegations surfaced that Ukraine was selling white phosphorus bombs to Azerbaijan during this country’s war with Armenia. The President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, denied these allegations at the time, emphasizing that his country did not export ammunition with white phosphorus to anyone. As the Civilnet Foundation states in an article from March 1, 2022, “the #CivilNetCheck investigation revealed that so far there is no information that Ukraine supplied any white phosphorus ammunition to Azerbaijan, before or during the 2020 war”. The Civilnet Foundation aims to “contribute to strengthening the democratic development of Armenia”.

Earlier allegations about the use of white phosphorus ammunition in Donbas, which appeared in the Russian media, were analyzed by the Ukrainian fact-checking website StopFake in an article from February 21, 2022. For this website, military expert Oleksiy Zinchenko analyzed the footage presented as white phosphorus bombs, which were allegedly used in Donbas, and determined that they actually show other types of ammunition.

Claims that the Ukrainian army used ammunition with white phosphorus have appeared several times but without any evidence. As for the allegations on the use of this ammunition in the suburbs of Kyiv, they came from the Russian Ministry of Defense, but were not supported by any evidence and were not confirmed by independent sources.

Therefore, the claim that the Ukrainian forces used ammunition filled with phosphorus in the suburbs of Kyiv, made by the Russian Ministry of Defense, and shared without information that there is no evidence and confirmation from independent sources for such allegation, is assessed as manipulation of facts.