As Russia launched airstrikes in Syria to target rebels, the world thought Moscow has shifted its focus away from Ukraine. Violence in eastern Ukraine has fallen to the lowest level since the ceasefire agreement was signed in February. But the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe claims to have spotted a Russian TOS-1 Buratino multiple rocket launcher in Ukraine this week.
Russia’s Buratino is ‘hell on Earth’
The OSCE is monitoring a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, where fighting between the government forces and Moscow-backed rebels has claimed more than 8,000 lives. The presence of the deadly Buratino points to Russia’s continued interest in Ukraine, even though it has stepped up military presence in Syria. Equipped with thermobaric warheads, Buratino destroys a target by spreading flammable liquid around it and then igniting it.
According to Reuters, the rocket system is capable of destroying several city blocks in one strike. The Popular Mechanics says TOS-1 Buratino is “hell on Earth” for anything it targets. Russia is the only country that produces this system. It has exported the rocket launcher only to Iraq, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Moscow never exported it to Ukraine.
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Ukraine never had TOS-1 in service
The OSCE’s findings come as Russian President arrived in Paris to hold talks with the leaders of France, Germany, and Ukraine on the peace process. Russia has denied any involvement in the Ukraine conflict. However, there has been evidence that it has provided separatists with weapons and troops. The Buratino was spotted in the village of Kruhlyk, a rebel training area.
A spokesman for the Ukrainian military said it never had TOS-1s in service. Even though the OSCE spotted a Buratino in Ukraine only this week, the Ukrainian defense ministry said in March that Moscow-backed separatists had seven TOS-1 Buratino systems. Earlier this week, rebels signed an agreement to extend the withdrawal of weapons to include smaller weapon systems and tanks. This agreement could mean an end to the conflict.