President Joe Biden will hold a call with western allies on Monday ahead of his upcoming trip to Brussels and Poland as Ukraine refuses to surrender the port city of Mariupol to Russia.
Biden will speak with President Emmanuel Macron of France, Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany, Prime Minister Mario Draghi of Italy and Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom at 11 a.m. EST to discuss their coordinated responses to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The five men will also be in Brussels on Thursday an emergency NATO Summit on Ukraine as well as a G7 meeting. He will also join a scheduled European Council Summit to discuss Ukraine ‘including transatlantic efforts to impose economic costs on Russia, provide humanitarian support to those affected by the violence, and address other challenges related to the conflict,’ the White House said.
Biden will then head to Poland on Friday for a meeting with President Andrzej Duda. Poland has taken in the most refugees from Ukraine as 3.2 million people fled the war-torn nation.
The conversation also comes as Moscow turned to deadlier methods in the Ukraine as the battle reaches a stalemate.
Footage has emerged of Russian forces firing thermobaric missiles at Mariupol, confirming the illegal use of devastating weapons against a civilian population.
It comes as Ukraine rejected Russian demands that troops in Mariupol, a port on the Black Sea, surrender in return for letting tens of thousands of civilians trapped in the heavily besieged city leave safely – saying promises of amnesty cannot be trusted and they are determined to fight ‘to the last soldier’.
Russian Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev laid out Moscow’s offer late Sunday, saying Ukrainian troops and ‘foreign mercenaries’ who laid down their arms and raised white flags would be allowed to leave via ‘humanitarian corridors’. Civilians would then be evacuated afterwards. He gave Ukraine until 5am to respond.
Daria Morozova, of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, said that all of those who remained behind would face a military tribunal for ‘all the crimes of the Ukrainian national battalions.’ She said inspectors would be sent into the city once it had been ‘completely cleansed’ by Russian troops.
But Mariupol rejected the demands within minutes, with Pyotr Andryushenko – an adviser to the city’s mayor – saying that Russian promises of amnesty could not be trusted and that troops defending the city were determined to fight down to the last man.
Meanwhile, clips, published by Russia Today and the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR), show a TOS-1a ‘Heavy Flamethrower system’ launching a salvo of rockets toward Mariupol, which has already endured more than a fortnight of heavy bombardment, resulting in hundreds of casualties.
Dozens of the thermobaric weapons were unleashed, trailing smoke as they soared through the air towards their helpless civilian targets, while the earth around the launcher was set ablaze.
Thermobaric bombs, also known as vacuum bombs or fuel-air bombs, are far more devastating than conventional explosives and work in two stages.
When a thermobaric charge is deployed, the first blast sprays a fuel vapour throughout the surrounding area, before a second blast ignites the vapour cloud in the air.
This results in a huge explosion, triggering a high-temperature fireball which sucks up the oxygen in the surrounding area and creates a massive blast wave.
The fireball can melt through defences and vaporize bodies caught close to the explosion, while the high-pressure blast wave can demolish buildings and rupture human organs.
The Ministry of Defence reported earlier this month that thermobaric weapons had been deployed in Ukraine, but this footage represents the first visual confirmation of their use against civilians in Mariupol.
This image, taken from a video clip released by the Donetsk People’s Republic, shows a TOS1a launch system deploying a salvo of thermobaric rockets
Dozens of the thermobaric weapons were unleashed, trailing smoke as they soared through the air towards their helpless civilian targets, while the earth around the launcher was set ablaze
The TOS-1a launcher, adorned with the ‘Z’ logo which has become a symbol of Russian aggression in Ukraine, is seen in this video released by the Donetsk People’s Republic
Thermobaric explosives release an aerosol consisting of very fine particles, such as metal, flammable dusts or chemical droplets. An ignition source then ignites the cloud of particles and their rapid combustion causes an explosion and a vacuum in the surrounding vicinity
Mariupol has been under a Russian heavy bombardment for more than a fortnight, resulting in widespread devastation and hundreds of casualties
Local residents take cover as they hear blasts during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol
Bodies of civilians killed during the Russian bombardment of Mariupol are laid out in a park as they await burial by soldiers defending the city, on Sunday
The science behind vacuum bombs
Thermobaric weapons – also known as vacuum bombs – are high-powered explosive that use the atmosphere itself as part of the explosion. They are among the most powerful non-nuclear weapons ever developed.
The bomb works by using oxygen from the surrounding air to generate a high-temperature explosion, making it far deadlier than a conventional weapon.
A thermobaric bomb dropped by the US on Taliban in Afghanistan in 2017 weighed 21,600 pounds and left a crater more than 300 meters (1,000 feet) wide after it exploded six feet above the ground.
Thermobaric weapons were developed by both the US and the Soviet Union in the 1960s. In September 2007, Russia detonated the largest thermobaric weapon ever made, which created an explosion equivalent to 39.9 tons.
Mariupol has been under siege for two weeks with little access to food or water and no power.
Tens of thousands of civilians remain trapped in the besieged city on Ukraine’s southern coast, but temporary ceasefire agreements to allow citizens to flee via humanitarian corridors have been repeatedly broken by Russian troops.
And Russia has been accused of deporting Ukrainians to ‘filtration’ centres before forcibly taking them to remote Siberian towns after confiscating their phones and documents.
‘Several thousand’ people have so-far been taken, Mariupol city council claimed, before being processed through ‘filtration camps’ and sent to ‘remote cities’ in Russia where they will be obliged to stay for years and work for free.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said before he chaired a meeting of the bloc’s foreign ministers in Brussels that ‘what’s happening in Mariupol is a massive war crime. Destroying everything, bombarding and killing everybody in an indiscriminate manner. This is something awful’.
Russian news agencies have reported that buses carrying hundreds of refugees from the besieged southeastern port city Mariupol had arrived in Russia in recent days. Moscow officials also said a trainload of over 280 Ukrainians were being ‘rescued’ from Mariupol, showing footage of them thanking Russian forces.
Mariupol mayor Vadym Boichenko likened the alleged forced deportations to transportation of prisoners by the Nazi regime during World War II. Boichenko said: ‘What the occupiers are doing today is familiar to the older generation, who saw the horrific events of World War II, when the Nazis forcibly captured people. It is hard to imagine that in the 21st century people can be forcibly taken to another country.’
This image shows earth around the launcher set ablaze as the TOS-1a fires dozens of rockets towards Mariupol
Members of the DNR militia are seen loading the rockets into the TOS-1a launcher
Mariupol has been under siege for two weeks with little access to food or water and no power. Tens of thousands of civilians remain trapped in the besieged city on Ukraine’s southern coast, but temporary ceasefire agreements to allow citizens to flee via humanitarian corridors have been repeatedly broken by Russian troops
This satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies on Saturday, March 19, 2022 shows the aftermath of the airstrike on the Mariupol Drama theater, Ukraine, and the area around it
Service members of pro-Russian troops are seen atop of tanks during Ukraine-Russia conflict on the outskirts of the besieged southern port city of Mariupol
One of the videos of the TOS-1a, released by members of the DNR, declares the rockets are being deployed in Mariupol to ‘target Ukrainian nationalists’.
The narration and terrifying footage of the rockets sent to deal yet more damage to Mariupol were accompanied by brash, propagandistic music.
‘The DNR’s People’s Militia with support of the Russian armed forces during a special operation in Ukraine are targeting positions of nationalists around Mariupol with the help of the TOS-1a,’ the narrator announced proudly.
General Sir Richard Barrons, a former head of the UK’s joint forces command, previously told MailOnline that the consequences of thermobaric weapons in Ukrainian urban centres would be devastating.
‘Unleashing thermobaric weapons and the mass concentrated use of heavy artillery will cause the indiscriminate, unnecessary and unwarranted slaughter of tens of thousands of innocent people,’ he said.
Vacuum bombs can have devastating effects even for those who are not caught close to the epicentre of the blast.
Those on the fringe are likely to suffer many internal, invisible injuries, including crushed organs and severe concussions.
According to the Journal of Military and Veterans’ Health, thermobaric weapons affect organs where there is a tissue interface of varying densities, such as the lungs, bowel and inner ear.
‘It predominantly affects the pulmonary, cardiovascular, auditory, gastrointestinal, and central nervous systems,’ it says.
When the blast wave hits, the alveoli of the lungs can be ruptured and leak fluid, resulting in a condition known as ‘blast lung’ which can prove deadly.
The cardiovascular system may also be affected by an air embolus in the heart or coronary arteries, while the blast wave can also severely damage the inner ear, resulting in deafness, extreme pain and balance problems.