‘Hell came down to earth’ Russia chemical weapon fears over 2,500C ‘phosphorus bombs’

Petro Andriushchenko, an advisor to the mayor of the city, told of fires burning as hot as 2,500 degrees Celcius. He added that the “fire is almost impossible to stop”.

Mr Andriushchenko posted a video of the bombing of Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant on Telegram in the early hours of this morning (Sunday).

He said that experts would have to investigate the true cause of the searing inferno, but that the Russians themselves claim they used incendiary shells.

Commenting on the scenes, he wrote: “Hell came down to earth in Azovstal. It’s amazing how our defenders are behaving. We are all indebted to them.”

Phosphorous bombs are a chemical weapon comprised of phosphates, which have the capacity to ignite on contact with air and burn as hot as 2,760 degrees according to the US military.

White phosphorous – or “Willie Pete” after its initials – is not banned from use under the Chemical Weapons convention, but is supposed to be tightly regulated under international law.

Such bombs are not supposed to be used when there is a danger of harming civilians.

Phosphorous bombs have the ability to spread a white-hot fire across a wide area, and their chemical properties mean that casualties can suffer deep burns and organ failure due to vapour inhalation.

It is not the first time that Russia have been accused of using the chemical weapons since the invasion of Ukraine began nearly three months ago.

On March 13, the Mayor of Luhansk – one of the two Russian-backed separatist regions – accused the invading Russian forces of using “phosphorous munitions” on Popasna, a small town in between Donetsk and Luhansk.

Serhiy Haidai described the Russian attackers as “war criminals”, comparing their acts to those of the Nazis.

The battle for the steel works in Mariupol is something that has now dragged on for more than 80 days, as a small contingent of Ukrainian fighters hold out against Russian troops.

The Ukrainians have used the vast maze-like complex to evade capture, despite being outnumbered.

The Azovstal siege has so far prevented Russian President Vladimir Putin from being able to claim complete control of the southern port city of Mariupol.

Without it, his military has been unable to take a single major Ukrainian city by force.

The determination and courage that the Ukrainian fighters have shown is an example of the frustrations the Russian offensive has encountered.

Russia has so far turned down all efforts to negotiate safe passage and a way out for the Ukrainian fighters, including one offered by Turkey.

Putin is said to have recently told his defence minister that not even a fly should be able to escape the Azovstal steel works.

Despite the steel works remaining the last bastion of the besieged city, Russian forces have largely asserted their control over the area.

However, Ukrainian officials have told of the acute humanitarian problems the occupation has now caused, including issues with access to bare essentials.

At around 10am this morning, Mr Andriushchenko posted a video showing local residents queueing for water near a hospital in Mariupol’s central district.

He said: “The Russians are trying to create the illusion of ‘all is well’ in the city. But water supply and water shortages remain the number one issue in the city.

“The restoration of centralized water supply has, as expected, turned into a ‘pshik’ [Russian word comparable to “zilch”].”