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New Incendiary Attacks in Syria Linked to Russian Bombs

August 8, 2016

By Eliot Higgins

Translations: Русский

In June 2016 Syrian opposition groups filmed and reported a number of incendiary bomb attacks on towns and cities across Syria. Activist frequently blamed Russian jets for the attacks, and on June 20 2016 Russian Today was caught editing footage of Russian jets in Syria to remove footage showing RBK-500 ZAB 2.5SM incendiary bombs.

Russia Today later restored the footage after widespread coverage of this editing. Following this coverage, there was a lull in incendiary attacks in Syria, but following the breaking of the siege of eastern Aleppo city by rebels groups, fresh incendiary attacks were reported in Idlib.

It should be noted that despite claims of phosphorus use, ZAB munitions are not phosphorus based, but use other incendiary agents. In the photographs shared by the White Helmets – Idlib account several showed the remains of the munitions used, such as the melted remains of an incendiary submunition, a not uncommon sight in the aftermath of RBK-500 based munition incendiary attacks:

More notable was the remains of the outer casing of the bomb used in the attack (source):

CpScr2VW8AArbQR

Here we can clearly see the markings on the casing, which in the Latin alphabet reads RBK-500 ZAB-2.5SM. These markings are identical to those on the incendiary cluster bombs edited out of the Russia Today footage of Russian jets in Syria (seen below on the right):

RBK500ZAB25SM

It is notable that despite the Syrian air forces widespread use of incendiary munitions since 2012, no evidence exists of the RBK-500 ZAB-2.5SM incendiary bomb being used prior to Russia’s bombing campaign in Syria. In addition, unlike the Syrian government, Russia has signed up to the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) protocol prohibiting the use of air-dropped incendiary weapons in areas containing concentrations of civilians. It seems increasingly difficult for Russian to deny the use of incendiary munitions by their air force in Syria, and that raises the questions to whether these munitions are being used in areas containing civilians as the White Helmets and others on the ground have claimed, violating the CCW protocol Russia has signed up to.

 

 

 

 

 

Eliot Higgins

Eliot Higgins is the founder of Bellingcat and the Brown Moses Blog. Eliot focuses on the weapons used in the conflict in Syria, and open source investigation tools and techniques.

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154 Comments

  1. John Zenwirt

    srtanger: And all stuck in moderation ? Trouble-maker – there are children here (!)

    Ah, this is part of your planned dis-information campaign on B/C to confuse the others…they finally un-moderated my Swedish story, did you look at any of it?

    Reply
    • stranger

      Not sure they have removed that keyword from the red list. Probably have just reviewed and approved your posts.

      I didn’t know I had a ‘planned disinformation campaign’ here. Thank you for the reminder! Do you remember also what is my current aim – to discredit Sweden going to NAT0? Would greatly appreciate to be reminded – loosing the focus, completely forgot.

      Btw I’ve been to Stockholm, very nice historical city! Especially their Wasa-battle-ship story, very edifying.

      Reply
      • stranger

        I believe NAT0 should also learn the story of Vasa ship before going to Sweden. Sorry couldn’t help to comment. Please google, if you have not heard it, you’ll enjoy 🙂

        Reply
        • Mad Dog

          Vasa story sounds like some of the excesses we saw under Stalin. Big planes, big tanks, big buildings, and under Putin with some very big submarines! Maybe he has a wiener problem….LOL

          Reply
          • stranger

            Vasa story is about bragging and poor design. Sweden used to be a powerful sea empire once upon a time. Once upon a time Russian Empire even beat Swedes at the territory of the modern Ukraine. Guess how Swedes got all the way round to Poltava? Ukrainians were looking for the euro-integration with the Sweden king even that time, just after Mazepa had switched from being the allies of the Russian czar Peter I. Basically nothing new today.

            But back to Vasa. They had built a super modern battle flagship at the ship-yard just across the king’s palace. Brought it to the sea for the very first time accompanied by the splendid celebration with a lot of spectators. But they hadn’t designed the ship properly and made mistakes when loading with heavy unattached canons and other ballast. The first strong gust of wind overturned the ship and it sank just in the direct sight of the king’s palace. The canal in Stockholm there is so deep, that the ship was hoisted only after like 100 years when the new technology became available.

            Doesn’t that remind you the bragging of NAT0 which conduct military training just by the Russian borders in Baltics and openly claims it is intended against potential Russian ‘aggression’ in order to ‘intimidate’ all their the enemies, modernization of nukes, the new offensive nuclear strategy, the plans to develop modern cruse nuclear missiles, etc, etc. So when their aircraft carrier is going to enter Stockholm’s canals they should really watch out not to repeat the story of Vasa. 🙂 ))))

            Don’t you think that the world goes cra3y? We are living in historical times. I believe Ukrainians are astonished themselves of what they have provoked. 🙂

          • stranger

            Vasa museum is a very nice place, highly recommend, Stockholm is a nice touristic city, a must see.

          • stranger

            Here is the historical moment when the Ukrainian Hetman Mazepa had just betrayed Russian czar Peter the First and welcomed the Swedish king Charles XII to fight Russians in Ukrainian territory at Poltava.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Poltava#/media/File:Mazepa2.JPG

            In the modern interpretation that would be Poroshenko welcoming Obama, calling for NAT0 and finger pointing: look it is Putin over there, I told you it is him. 🙂

            Sorry for the offtopic and sorry Ukrainian friends. There were pro-russian Ukrainian leaders also starting from Bohdan Khmelnitskiy. Basically history always repeats itself. Sorry just a friendly joke.

  2. John Zenwirt

    Could hacks of Arizona’s and Illinois’ voter databases be part of a Russian attempt to meddle in the U.S. election?

    The FBI’s decision to issue a nationwide alert about the possible hacking of state election offices after breaches in Illinois and Arizona is raising concerns that a nationwide attack could be afoot, with the potential for creating havoc on Election Day.

    But some cyber experts said the FBI’s alert, first revealed by Yahoo News on Monday, could be a sign that investigators are worried that foreign actors are attempting a wide-scale digital onslaught.

    http://tinyurl.com/gwc8qev (Politico)

    Reply
    • Mad Dog

      Sorry stranger, but I think you have got it bass ackwardss. I was referring to stuff like this: http://mentalfloss.com/article/31521/7-super-sized-and-somewhat-insane-soviet-projects and this in your beloved Ukraine: http://pulitzercenter.org/reporting/eastern-europe-black-sea-failed-soviet-irrigation-project-brings-eco-apocalypse-sw-ukraine and this project taken up by your Chinese buddies: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_aircraft_carrier_Ulyanovsk

      Also, it would seem to most rational people that NATO drills in some of those countries came after Soviet….oops, Russian provocations and muscle flexing, plus all that military action in the Crimea and Ukraine. Response to a viable threat I think one would call it.

      Reply
        • stranger

          What’s the point? The bridge will be ultimately built. It is really very demanded. As well as the power lines from the continent instead those cut off by Ukrainian side. Ukraine definitely wanted to make the life of own ‘occupied’ citizens easier and encourage them to return.
          There were so many gloating voices that Russia would not be able to rebuild the infrastructure to Sochi Olympics, finally they all appeared to be not true, the Olympics happened and was great. At the very same time unfortunately the unrests were spin off in Ukraine. So the small victory of Russia in Sochi was immediately overweighed by the great defeat in Ukraine not without the help of the western ‘partners’ as well. Tell me who’s the heck provoke all conflicts at the post soviet states during Olympics?

          Reply
        • stranger

          I have read your Bershidskiy – the same sh1t as Belkovskiy and Gessen. He is a lier also because he is saying Ukrainians don’t go to Crimea to vacations – that is not true.
          Those Russphobes always tell the same, just at the current moment they unexpectedly become demanded, as a broken clock which shows a right time once per day, and hence widely printed in known media. Sh1t doesn’t sink. Why read and dig this sh1t? We need to respect ourselves a bit more.

          Reply
      • stranger

        Do you know that most of large projects created during Stalin industrialization still work and earn huge money to their now private owners/oligarchs?
        During 90th with the help of your financial US advisors all infrastructure, huge factories, and other Soviet large projects, was either destroyed as the air craft carrier you gave the link to which was sold to Chinese for pennies or given out to private hands at the so called ‘deposit auctions’ with the laws violations giving the raise to new oligarchs, including that ‘Kremlin God Father’ demonic Berezovskiy which we discussed concerning the Chechen war, including Khodorkovskiy who nearly succeeded to sue Russia for 50bil and all others thieves in law.
        Industrialization was not the worst thing left by Stalin times. The largest nuclear ice-breaker by your link – it is needed to navigate in the Arctic sea, what’s wrong? The space program where soviets were first in everything, not America. I don’t understand where do you find it funny.
        That means that small split away countries like Ukraine would never be able to create any large projects and instead are trying to laugh it and say like: it is all Soviet giantmania, we don’t need space programs, we don’t need nuclear power plants, we will raise carrots and cabbage, and immigrate to Europe for doing low paid jobs, at the best we will write some simple software.
        That is the degradation caused by splitting once large country into small pieces and cutting off all integration ties. But you call it a progress, euro-integration and condemnation of the soviet past and trying to make laugh of it because you understand you are not able to do anything like that after almost a hundred of years. So sad.
        Vasa was incorrectly designed afaik, that was another story a good lesson for engineers.
        And you Leonid Bershidskiy you gave the link to is also one of the known unscrupulous authors very similar to Gessen, writing in a very specific genre I can hardly name correctly, black political satire at the best may be. Not the best reading for a self respecting person, but a matter of taste.

        Reply
      • stranger

        Oops, I’m sorry, I meant Belkovskiy not Bershidskiy, I can say nothing about Bershidskiy so far, I confuse them all the time. You can read Bershidskiy (Bloomberg) if you’d like.

        As for NAT0, did you see this picture? Describing the events of 1700 the Poltava Battle it shows so perfectly the relationships of Baltics and now Ukraine with ‘the west’/NAT0 concerning Russia. Mazepa calls Swedish King to attack Russia. Before that Mazepa had fought at the Russian side and was very close to Peter I and then hiddenly switched to Swedes. Mazepa bet on the wrong horse though, Swedes were defeated under Poltava, Mazepa didn’t end well. That was the story of betrayal, but modern Ukraine is looking for a way to interpret all the history in the way of fighting for independence, so that Mazepa used strategic craftiness to ally with one enemy and then clash it with another enemy for the sake of independent Ukraine bla bla.

        http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/93/Mazepa2.JPG

        Sorry. I understand it is complicated

        Reply
  3. John Zenwirt

    stranger: Vasa was incorrectly designed afaik, that was another story a good lesson for engineers.

    My father was in Shell Oil, and they paid for the Vasa’s restoration, completely, they paid every cost…

    Reply
  4. John Zenwirt

    Harry Reid Cites Evidence of Russian Tampering in U.S. Vote, and Seeks F.B.I. Inquiry.

    News reports on Monday said the F.B.I. warned state election officials several weeks ago that foreign hackers had exported voter registration data from computer systems in at least one state, and had pierced the systems of a second one.

    While intelligence agencies have told the White House that they have “high confidence” that Russian intelligence services were behind the hacking of the Democratic committee, the administration has not leveled any accusations against Mr. Putin’s government. Asked about that in the interview, Mr. Reid said he was free to say things the president was not.

    http://tinyurl.com/j2jcjpb (NYT)

    Reply
    • stranger

      Kremlin is going to falsify the US president elections?! Proud of Russia! Putin is ruling the world, at least in Ukrainian mythology. If the senator claims that, it cannot be untrue! Don’t you believe the senator?! How can you doubt him??
      The idiocy is getting stronger. Russians will not forget that when the dust is settled down.

      Although frankly there are other more balanced and thoughtful articles. By pre selecting only Russophobes and senators with unstable mind the picture may be distorted anyway.

      Clinton’s attempt to use Russia in her political campaign and put the world at the edge of nuclear war just to get over Trump is just disgusting. There are no any other words, just disgusting.

      Reply
    • stranger

      You see how simple, and you was so afraid that Putin is going to rule American elections and all the world. He disguised so well, nobody can recognize. Wait, may be that black Putin is hacking US elections? LOL

      Reply
  5. John Zenwirt

    It’s really impossible to “hack” elections in USA…Virtually every State has a different system, some paper ballots, some electronic but still different. 50 different ways of counting, “hacking” would take much longer than actual voting hours…

    Reply
    • stranger

      Then what was the article you posted about?
      “Harry Reid Cites Evidence of Russian Tampering in U.S. Vote, and Seeks F.B.I. Inquiry.”

      Reply
      • John Zenwirt

        B/c despite common sense, and a little USA election knowledge, Russians have “hacked” the DNC, for instance. Why the Russians bother doing this, you’d have to ask Mr. Putin….

        Reply
  6. John Zenwirt

    The Arizona incident is the latest indication of Russian interest in U.S. elections and party operations, and it follows the discovery of a high-profile penetration into Democratic National Committee computers.

    The Russian campaign is also sparking intense anxiety about the security of this year’s elections. Earlier this month, the FBI warned state officials to be on the lookout for intrusions into their election systems.

    “The very fact that [someone] has rattled the doorknobs, the very fact that the state election commissions are in the crosshairs, gives grounds to the average American voter to wonder: Can they really trust the results?” Barger said.

    http://tinyurl.com/joyorue (WashPost)

    Reply
    • stranger

      It looks like ms Clinton and mr Trump humiliate each other and poring dirt to each other so much, that whoever is finally elected, will never be able to wash out. They used to be/are family friends, so nothing personal probably. I don’t remember anything similar during Obama elections, didn’t watch them closely maybe.

      Reply
  7. John Zenwirt

    Report: Russia now a greater threat to Finland.

    Russia represents a greater threat to Finland, according to a new report out on Tuesday. The Finnish Institute of Foreign Affairs says that Finnish decision-makers have to be alert to Russia’s use of energy policy in geo-politics, and the lack of western-style market mechanisms in Russia.

    http://tinyurl.com/hmaq7j6 (Finland media)

    Reply
    • stranger

      That is most sad in all those anti Russian bacchanalia. Russia is being pushed out from European markets. Major beneficiaries are US and also Middle East countries including Iran recently releaved from sanctions, which are going to replace Russia at this market. Major loser is Europe of course because of the introduced politically inflicted fee.

      For example US is selling liquified gas to Europe, too expensive so far, but if Russia will be politically banned, EU will have no choice but to buy at a higher price. The same concerns nuclear power which US is looking to replace Russia in.

      The new gas transit lines from Russia are prohibited to be built by EU, especially Poland insists against it. Russia has to pump gas through existing lines via Ukraine and pay them for transite whatever they demand, even though the official Ukraine is becoming a hostile state.

      So in contrast to all those anti Russian annoying but harmless hysteria, those are already practical economical steps to weaken Russia and tear it already from Europe. Definitely Europe is not going to win from such policy.

      On the other hand for exactly that reason those attempts may not succeed. For example the planned cross Atlantic trade union between EU and US de facto has not succeeded so far, because US insists on descriminating own rules which EU is not going to accept so far. The political pressure other things equal makes to pay higher fees, so let’s hope the common sense will prevail and malicious politicians will lose.

      Who said Russia exports only rage road videos? The nuclear power stations and rocket engines as well, as we have found only thanks to sanctions.

      Reply
      • Mad Dog

        Just gotta laugh at your responses. You do seem to forget that many of those gargantuan projects were built on the backs of impressed or prisoner labor, with graves lined in concrete. The White Sea canal was a boondoggle from the start and can barely float a barge, a lot of wasted blood and resources. Many of the other projects were ‘licensed’ factories for building Fordson tractors and Fiats, for example, so they are still around. Same goes for Magnitogorsk as it was based upon US Steel mills in Gary Indiana, but Soviet planners got it all mixed up, used unskilled peasant labor, and ended up with a kind of monstrosity that the German planner May wanted to avoid. There was also the political paranoia of Stalin that reached into the management of the building and running of the plant. So even today, the percentage of healthy mothers and children is still very low, despite actions to clean up emissions, etc. But this kind of thing played out in many areas of the Soviet Union and even Russia today, where being close to Czar Putin has massive benefits (as noted in that bridge article). And then we have the massive overspending in Sochi where the costs continue to mount as the facilities crumble. No problem as the common Russian citizen will just cough up more tax money to help fund this exercise in grandiosity (with athletes fueled by another gargantuan program run by the FSB among others). You can defend all of this all you want, but all I see is the suffering over the years of countless millions of Soviet/Russian citizens. I don’t think that is being anti-Russian at all.

        Reply
        • stranger

          Nobody denies that Stalin times were terrible. Lenin also conducted not very nice policies. It would be better if none of them ever existed in Russian history.

          On the other hand saying that it all was ‘suffering over the years of countless millions of Soviet/Russian citizens’ is also not true. I was too young but I remember a little bit the late soviet times. Nothing even close to sufferings you are talking about. People were studying, living their lives, had various hobbies, sciences were very popular, nobody had to struggle for the living. Btw I got a completely free education.

          You gave me white sea channel example. And I’d give you the first sputnik and first human in space, first spacecraft on the moon, first woman astronaut, first orbit station, those same atomic ice breakers which US has only 2, much less that battle aircarriers. America was not the first in any of those fields. At that time America was struggling for the rights of blacks, for the rights of them to share the same restrooms, ride the same places in public transport and study in colleges with whites. US has definitely advanced greatly since that times.

          As for doping it was a vague story. I cannot claim anything, but that is based only on witnesses of Rodchenkov, the former representative of that same WADA in Russia, and Stepanov’s family. Rodchenkov was accused in Russia for machinations with doping. WADA on the other hand proposed him money, political asylum in a western country and the defend from Russian accusations, just in the exchange to frame Russian sports system. Guess what would have he chosen. I guess that, don’t know for sure, but the story with FSB sounds delirious. We can think logically – why did Russian Paralympic team banned completely regardless of who had issues with doping and who has not, but the regular team was admitted at the same time? That is russphobia for me, also the tons of biased articles, the claim that Russia is interfering with US elections and constant flows of other lies. Btw it looks like it has intensified recently, probably before G20 in September.

          As for Putin’s government capitalism, it depends on what are you comparing it with. You compare with developed countries, but I claim that in 90th it was much worse. Compared to the geopolitical problems, particularly clashing with Ukraine and separation from Europe, the internal problems become less significant. They are no good, nobody denies that.

          Reply
        • stranger

          Oh, I’ve heard about the great test for whether it is russphobia or not. Take any of the articles John is posting here and replace imaginary Russia->Israel, Russian->Jew and try to imagine such article at the front pages of NYT or WP. If you can imagine that, the article is ok, if you cannot, then you know. You can practice

          Reply
  8. stranger

    The same Bershidskiy (the columnist of Bloomberg, political emigrant from russia) on EU-Ukraine association which triggered Maydan, overthrow of Yanukovich just one year before the next elections, US fully supported the overthrow, unproportioned Russian response, the greatest isolation and informational campaign against russia since the cold war, breaking all ties between Russia and Ukraine, people incited to each others. With all is ending up by Putin allegedly ruling US elections (which is my favorite one).

    Tell me, was that self-single-sided snobbish European proposal worth all that followed? That’s why nobody wants to recall how and why Maydan was started. The propaganda has built tons of quasi noble mythology around it, turning it out as a fight of democracy vs dictatorship and all the good vs all the evil etc.

    But that was exactly how it started:

    “Conditions in EU trade deals with less-developed countries often favor Europe.”
    “The trade part of the deal came into effect from January 2016, and the first data on its implementation are not encouraging for Ukraine.”
    “Taken at face value, as a deal on tariffs and quotas, the Ukraine-EU agreement is skewed in favor of European companies.”
    “European bureaucrats have told Ukrainians not to expect instant benefits from the association deal. The more pessimistic, such as Nicholas Burge, head of the trade section of the European Commission’s delegation to Ukraine, speak of improvements in five to 10 years.”
    “Either way, time is necessary for European companies to discover Ukraine — at this point, mainly as a source of cheap, but relatively well-trained labor — and build operations there.”

    http://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2016-05-11/ukraine-s-free-trade-deal-with-the-eu-was-just-a-start

    Bershidskiy is optimist for Ukraine, will wish them good luck:
    “Ukraine can only benefit from its deal with the EU if it draws up, and enforces, transparent and reasonable rules for European investors. Otherwise the deal will merely be a drag on the trade balance, preventing business with Russia and favoring European exporters over Ukrainian ones.”

    Reply
  9. Mad Dog

    Of course it will take time. Moving from a largely Stalinist economy with the rules written by Russia to one with a variety of players from a variety of more developed countries does not insure instant success, but it is a step in the right direction. Or do you feel that an economy run for the benefit of one man and his lackeys really has something to offer?

    Reply
    • stranger

      I’m not sure Ukraine is moving in the right direction. The government is not fighting with corruption, because it is – the corruption itself. Poroshenko himself owns a TV channel and a factory in Russia and not going to sell. Oligarchs are going to steal and ultimately transfer abroad to own private accounts money lent by IMF which the population is going to return over decades. IMF is going to drain the country as they did to Argentina once upon a time. The trades with Russia are declining, while EU is not going to open completely it’s agro market. It anyway depends on the normalization of trade with Russia while they are keeping a hostile rhetoric (well I can understand them) and call Russia an aggressor and the first enemy of ‘the west’. And Russia is anyway supposed to feed them after all because Europe won’t and US doesn’t care.

      Why are you fixated so much at Stalinism?? It was almost 80 years ago. It has nothing to do with modern Russia. The soviet economy was destroyed in 90th (the aim was good, the means and the process were terrible just even catastrophic and results very questionable). That was converted into the wild oligarchy (billionaires writing the laws for themselves and controlling media and the government entering the ‘president family’, the same in Ukraine) and the wild capitalism of the ‘initial capital accumulation stage’ including the burst of crimes. Currently it is more moderate oligarchy in a symbiosis with the government and the corruption of course. That concerns the large export industries, oil, metals, gas. There is a layer of machinery and more or less high tech and science consuming industries which are perhaps almost not affected by that. The Investment climate is a subtle think of course. I don’t know how to fix and not make it worse. But I believe we are talking about more significant factors.

      Russia does have to offer the own large consumer market first of all, driven exactly by that oil money. (Europe wants exactly the same from Russia and Ukraine – the consumer’s money, besides the resources.) The more or less high tech industries including avia and space and heavy machinery which are compatible with Ukrainian factories while nobody in Europe needs them. So anyway it has to normalize the relationships with Russia sooner or later.

      Am I wrong? You are always discussing abstract politics while the problems are more economical and political of course. I wish them good luck anyway.

      Reply
    • stranger

      The first victim of ‘euro-integration’ and cutting the connections with Russia. The old Soviet development and the pride of Ukraine, the biggest cargo plane in the world, Antonov An-225 Mriya is sold out to China together with all the design specification and the copy rights to reproduce. But you, Ukraine, will be growing carrots and cabbage instead of ‘Soviet giant-mania’ and going to Europe in contrast to ‘Russia slaves’. Ok, good luck.

      Reply
      • stranger

        Ukraine – agrarian superpower, damn! Before that happens, just make Europe to stop subsidiary own farmers, remove the quotas and let their farmers go bankrupt. Do you think Europe agrees? Europe needs Ukraine solely as a large new market for own goods and hopefully in the future as the source of the cheap working force, while all the profit will still belong to European companies. The unity with Russia might have been also difficult, but probably more fair and equal. So welcome Euro-integration! Bye high tech.

        Reply

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