'Children killed' as Ukraine's President Zelenskyy claims Russia used 'phosphorous bombs'

Ukraine's president wants much more military assistance from Nato, as Europe Editor James Mates reports

Children were killed as white phosphorous rained down in Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has claimed, as he called on Nato to provide more weaponry.

In an address to the 30 member states of the alliance, he pleaded for just 1% of the alliance's planes and tanks - to give Ukraine "100% protection" from Russian invaders.

Russia is “using its entire arsenal” when attacking Ukraine, he added, and his country needs “military assistance without limitations" to defend itself.

He spoke less than 24 hours after ITV News reported on what some experts believe to be the use of white phosphorous near the capital Kyiv, and just hours after the the latest reports of its use.

"This morning phosphorus bombs were used, phosphorus Russian bombs," he said.

"Adults were killed again and children were killed again. I just want you to know that the alliance [Nato] can still prevent the deaths of Ukrainians from Russian strikes, from Russian occupation, by providing us with all the weapons we need."

ITV News cameras captured what some experts called 'white phosphorus bombs' lighting up Irpin's night sky

White phosphorous burns at extremely high temperatures and is often used to illuminate conflict zones or obscure them with smoke.

It can cause horrific burns, respiratory damage, infection, shock, and organ failure, according to Human Rights Watch.

The use of white phosphorous munitions is not banned by the Chemical Weapons Convention, but any attacks which cause disproportionate damage to civilians are.

Adding weight to the analysis of ITV News' footage, Irpin's mayor, Oleksandr Markushyn, alleged that white phosphorus munitions had been used by the Russians.

It comes as Boris Johnson warned Vladimir Putin of "severe consequences" if he uses chemical weapons in his attacks on Ukraine.

The prime minister said it "would be catastrophic" for Putin if chemical weapons were used, but he rubbished nuclear threats from Russia as a "distraction."

President Joe Biden said the US "will respond" if Russia uses chemical weapons, when asked if their use could push Nato into military action.

"We would respond if he uses it - the nature of the response would depend on the nature of the use."

Nato leaders including President Joe Biden, President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Boris Johnson are meeting today to discuss Russia. Credit: AP

Mr Stoltenberg said Nato’s senior military commander had “activated Nato’s chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defence elements and allies are deploying additional chemical, biological and nuclear defences.”

Any use of chemical weapons "will totally change the nature of the conflict, it will be a blatant violation of international law and it will have widespread consequences", he added.

A joint statement from Nato leaders, released following an emergency summit, said: “Nato allies will also continue to provide assistance [to Ukraine] in such areas as cyber security and protection against threats of a chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear nature.”

This is an example of strategic ambiguity in Nato, as Europe Editor James Mates explains from Brussels

Nato has so far resisted providing Ukraine with fighter jets as it wants to avoid the appearance of being involved in the conflict with Russia - a move Putin has said would have consequences.

But a US official said his country was considering providing Ukraine with anti-ship missiles.

"We have started consulting with allies on providing anti-ship missiles to Ukraine," the official said. "There may be some technical challenges with making that happen but that is something that we are consulting with allies and starting to work on."

Mr Johnson, asked whether the use of chemical weapons by Russia would be crossing a red line that forces Nato to act, told reporters in Brussels that "Putin has already crossed the red-line into barbarism."

As well as accusing Russia of using white phosphorus bombs, Ukraine also alleges that Moscow has forcibly taking hundreds of thousands of civilians from shattered Ukrainian cities to Russia, where some may be used as “hostages” to pressure Kyiv to give up.

Lyudmyla Denisova, Ukraine's ombudsperson, said 402,000 people, including 84,000 children, have been taken against their will. The Kremlin gave nearly identical numbers for those who have been relocated, but said they wanted to go to Russia. Ukraine's rebel-controlled eastern regions are predominantly Russian-speaking, and many people there have supported close ties to Moscow.

In an update on Thursday night, Britain's Ministry of Defence said Ukrainian forces had launched strikes against "high value targets" in Russian-controlled areas.

The MoD said these targets include a landing ship and ammunition storage depots at Berdyansk.

Listen to the latest analysis on the Ukraine crisis in ITV News' podcast: