BAKMUD, Ukraine — Residents of the eastern city of Bagmud fought frantically Sunday evening as several houses caught fire after Russian troops lobbed incendiary explosives into their neighborhood, Ukrainian officials said.
After the attack, as residents collected empty vials and small, black cylindrical capsules used in the attack, Pavlo Kyrilenko, head of the civil military administration in Donetsk province, said Russian forces had used incendiary weapons.
Bagmut, in Donetsk Oblast, is an important military stronghold in Ukraine. Less than 10 miles from Russian lines, it is a target for Russia’s planned advance through the eastern Donbas region. Accustomed to almost daily bombardment. But Sunday’s strike was less familiar, residents said — at least in a civilian part of town.
Amid a barrage of explosions around 5pm, an arc of fireballs erupted above the city and drifted down like sparks in a fireworks display. Within minutes, black smoke billowed from the neighborhood as roadsides, plants and houses were burned.
Neighbors in shorts and sandals frantically pulled garden hoses toward the burning house. As the rafters and tiled roof of a house cracked, they threw buckets of water on the fire.
The neighbors moved out of town a few weeks ago and no one was inside, they said. At least seven houses and a large amount of vegetation were burnt.
Victor, 67, a retired miner, watched from his home across the street. “I worked in the mines for 20 years and this is what I got,” he said, then wept. Like many residents, he was reluctant to give his family name during the war.
Off-duty police officers and soldiers arrived in small cars to help. They carried buckets of water, their hands and arms charred from fighting another fire in the street.
“This is the first time we have this in the civilian area of Pakmut,” said Katerina, a 31-year-old social worker. Her neighbor Olesya, 17, said they were used to the sound of multiple rocket launchers, commonly known here as Krats.
“We’ve heard of grates and mortars before, but this was different,” he said. “It’s a light sound, like Shush, Shush, Shush.”
Ukrainian officials said Russia used incendiary weapons used by militaries around the world, including Russia and Ukraine. Although not prohibited by international law, their use is limited.
As residents retrieved the canisters and capsules from their gardens and streets, one of the soldiers said that the canisters were being fired by rockets and advised residents to cover the capsules with sand and not to use water to clean them.
“We have them on the front lines all the time,” he said. “Now they’ve got it here.” He did not give his name as per military protocol.
Kamila Harabchuk Contributed report.
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