Explosion of Russian Thermobaric Warhead Kills Three Servicemembers near Ukrainian Border

Shebekino, a town in the Belgorod region of Russia, was shaken by a tragic explosion caused by the detonation of ammunition from a Solntsepyok thermobaric warhead. The incident resulted in the loss of three Russian servicemembers, as reported by the Russian Telegram channel Astra, citing its sources. The Solntsepyok is known as a “heavy flamethrower,” equipped with a thermobaric warhead multiple rocket launcher system (MRLS) weapon TOS-1.

According to Astra’s sources within the region’s emergency services, the explosion occurred in the evening in the suburb of Shebekino. The cause of the explosion remains unknown, though preliminary data suggest it may have been spontaneous. Prior to the explosion, a powerful blast was heard in the town the night before, sparking speculation from local media that a Russian bomb had fallen on Shebekino.

Following the explosion, the regional governor confirmed the incident, noting that no injuries were reported, but 10 private households and one car sustained damage. The governor emphasized that an investigation into the cause of the explosion was underway. This event is reminiscent of a previous incident where a Russian high explosive bomb fell on Belgorod on May 4, injuring seven civilians.

Videos circulating on social media captured a thick cloud of smoke billowing after the explosion, highlighting the devastation caused by the detonation of the Solntsepyok thermobaric warhead. The local Telegram channel also reported that the explosion’s force was so intense that it shattered house glass and tore out window frames due to the blast wave.

The “Solntsepyok” heavy flamethrower system is designed to target light armored vehicles, enemy personnel in open terrain, and fortified buildings through powerful volume explosions. It utilizes unguided rockets with a caliber of 220mm, weighing over 200 kg. The thermobaric munition it deploys creates a lethal cloud of explosive mixture that, when detonated, induces a sharp atmospheric pressure drop of about 160 mm Hg, capable of causing internal organ rupture. Cost estimates for the “Solntsepyok” system vary, ranging from $6.5 million to $15 million.