The TOS-1 Buratino is a Russian heavy 220-mm multiple launch thermobaric rocket system based on the T-72 tank. In 1995, by order of the Russian Minister of Defense, the TOS-1 was adopted by the Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Protection Troops, and in 1996 its serial production was launched. Since 2001, the Russian Armed Forces have also adopted its modification TOS-1A Solntsepyok. In this article, we summarize evidence of the use of these systems by Russia in the hostilities against Ukraine in the Donbas.
We should admit that as for now, we have not been able to find convincing photos or videos in open sources that would record these heavy flamethrower systems in the Donbas but there have been multiple testimonies about the use of these systems in Eastern Ukraine. We found following reports in open sources:
- According to the testimony of the ATO Press Center which was referred to by Ukrainska Pravda, on January 13, 2015, Russian terrorist groups used a heavy TOS-1 Buratino multiple launch rocket launcher system from which they opened fire on the outskirts of the village of Vesele located near Donetsk International Airport.
- According to the report of the OSCE SMM from September 28, 2015, one TOS-1 Buratino was spotted on September 25, 2015 at the training area near the village of Kruhlyk (31 km south-west of Luhansk).
- On October 15, 2015, the British delegation to the OSCE asked the Russian side to explain how the Russian heavy flamethrower systems TOS-1 Buratino got into the combat zone in the Donbas. On May 18, 2018, the US mission to the OSCE also demanded explanations from the Russian Federation regarding the presence of Russian weapon systems in the Ukrainian Donbas, including the TOS-1 Buratino among others.
- In January 2016, the media reported that the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense provided the OSCE SMM with evidence of the presence of TOS-1 Buratino in the areas occupied by Russian forces near the Ukrainian towns of Novohryhorivka, Makiivka and Donetsk.
- In November 2016, InformNapalm international intelligence community published exclusive data from the reception of the Russian President’s assistant Vladislav Surkov (“SurkovLeaks”) which were obtained by hacktivists of the Ukrainian Cyber Alliance by hacking the e-mail account of the Kremlin official’s office. Several reputable organizations, including the Atlantic Council’s DFRLab, have verified the authenticity of the emails following our publication. Among the correspondence, preliminary plans of implementation of the Minsk Protocols were also found. At least twice, on January 29 and January 30 2015, Vladislav Surkov received plans of activities for implementation of the Protocol signed by the Trilateral Contact Group. Both versions covered the withdrawal of the heavy flamethrower systems TOS-1 to 14km from the contact line. We remind you that the Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements (Minsk-2) was signed in Minsk on February 11-12, 2015. The documents published in open sources did not mention the withdrawal of heavy flamethrower systems. The versions of January 29 and 30 from Surkov’s emails also differed with regard to the detailed descriptions of the ground control points for the withdrawal of the forces.
- In January 2020, BBC Ukraine published an interview How they defended and how they lost Donetsk airport. Memoirs of the Cyborgs commander Oleh Mikats. In the interview, the combat Ukrainian general, who in 2014-2015 commanded the 93rd Brigade near Donetsk Airport, said the following about the use of the TOS-1 Buratino by Russian occupation forces: “We saw four of these vehicles on Stratonavtov Street (a street in Donetsk south of the airport. – Ed.). At first we thought they were tanks, but then we identified them as Buratino. One of the vehicles managed to fire several shots – they lay down to the left of the village of Pisky (the main base of the Ukrainian army at the Donetsk Airport. – Ed.). We fired at them with artillery from the 93rd Brigade. One vehicle was hit, another was damaged. They then dragged them away. Later, through the SBU, we received confirmation that they were for sure the Buratinos.
These testimonies suggest that at a certain stage of hostilities, Russia brought the heavy 220-mm multiple launch flamethrower systems into the occupied territories of Ukraine. Later, probably after a significant public outcry, including in the Western media, these systems were removed or hidden in the occupied territories in order to avoid their exposing.
It should be noted that in October 2015, InformNapalm international intelligence community documented the transfer of the TOS-1A Solntsepyok flamethrower systems to Syria. In December 2015, an OSINT investigation was published with evidence of the transportation of ammunition for the TOS-1 Buratino and TOS-1A Solntsepyok heavy flamethrower systems from the port of Novorossiysk through the Bosporus to Syria. The transportation was carried out by a large sea dry cargo vessel Yauza of the Russian Navy.
According to the website of the Russian Ministry of Defense, in the Russian Armed Forces, the TOS-1 systems are in service with the following military units of the Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Protection Troops:
- military unit 71432, 1st Mobile NBC Protection Brigade;
- military unit 07059, 16th NBC Protection Brigade;
- military unit 11262, 27th NBC Protection Brigade;
- military unit 16383, 40th NBC Protection Regiment;
- military unit 59792, 35th NBC Protection Regiment;
- military unit 41474, 70th Separate Flamethrower Battalion.
We appeal to all readers who have photo or video materials and can provide additional information about Russian weapons and military equipment in the Donbas. Such information can supplement the world’s largest multilingual database of OSINT investigations by InformNapalm which records Russian servicemen and equipment that were involved in the Russian war against Ukraine.
Read more from InformNapalm
- Proofs of the Russian Aggression: InformNapalm releases extensive database of evidence
- Volunteers gathered evidence of 32 Russian military units taking part in the invasion of Crimea
- SurkovLeaks (part 3): analysis of the correspondence of Surkov’s first deputy Inal Ardzinba
- SurkovLeaks (part 2): hacktivists publish new email dump
- Russian electronic warfare system R-330Zh Zhitel once again spotted in Donbas
- Russian ‘Solntsepyok’ Heavy Flamethrower Systems Were Noticed in Syria
- Russian Transport Vessel ‘Yauza’ Deploys Ammunition to Bashar Al-Assad
- Mosul: Arms of Russian propaganda