Casualty warnings as Russia said to use deadlier weapons in war

Ukrainian and British officials have warned that Russian forces are relying on weapons which are capable of causing mass casualties to civilians as they try to make headway in their fight to capture regions in eastern Ukraine.

Russian bombers have likely launched dozens of heavy, 1960s-era, anti-ship missiles in ground attacks in Ukraine, the UK defence ministry said on Saturday.

The Kh-22 missiles were primarily designed to destroy aircraft carriers using a nuclear warhead.

When such missiles are used in ground attacks with conventional warheads, they “are highly inaccurate and therefore can cause severe collateral damage and casualties”, the ministry said.

Russia is likely using the 5.5-tonne anti-ship missiles because it is running short of more precise modern missiles, the British ministry said.

The ministry provided no details of where exactly such missiles are thought to have been deployed in Ukraine.

Both Russian and Ukrainian forces have expended large amounts of weaponry in what has become a grinding war of attrition for the eastern region of coal mines and factories known as the Donbas, placing huge strains on their arms resources and stockpiles.

The Ukrainian governor of eastern Luhansk province also accused Russia of using incendiary “flamethrower” rockets on the village of Vrubivka, southwest of the fiercely contested cities of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk.

While the use of flamethrowers on the battlefield is legal, governor Serhiy Haidai alleged the attacks overnight had caused widespread damage to civilian home

“At night, the enemy used a flamethrower rocket system – many houses burned down,” Haidai wrote on Telegram on Saturday, adding that information about the number of victims in Vrubivka, in the Popasnyanska district, is being collected.

Haidai also said Russian forces were destroying critical industrial facilities, including railway depots, a brick factory and a glass factory. The governor’s claims could not be immediately verified.

Ukrainian government adviser Anton Gerashchenko accused Russian forces of using incendiary weapons to inflict damage, including against agricultural targets. On Saturday, Gerashchenko posted a video to twitter allegedly showing Ukrainian troops attempting to put out fires caused by incendiary shelling of wheat fields.

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