- Russia said it deployed at least one thermobaric missile launcher on its own territory, per the UK MOD.
- Russia said it was to repel attacks, as Russian rebel groups raided Belgorod.
- It shows Russia has a dilemma between using weapons on its own territory or in Ukraine, the MOD said.
Russia deployed at least one thermobaric missile launcher on its own territory to push back partisan attacks, the UK Ministry of Defence said in an intelligence update on Friday.
According to the UK MOD, Russia's defense ministry said in a recent press release that it had deployed attack helicopters and the TOS-1A heavy thermobaric rocket launcher to repel attacks in Belgorod, a region that borders Ukraine and where Russian rebels have been active.
The UK ministry said this shows Russia has "resorted to deploying the full range of military firepower on its own territory" in response to recent attacks by partisan groups.
The TOS-1A heavy thermobaric rocket launcher, which is mounted on top of tanks and can launch rockets up to two miles, Forbes reported. Thermobaric weapons are also known as vacuum bombs, and can have devastating effects on large areas, which are hit by huge blast waves.
It is not clear if Russia actually used the weapon in Belgorod.
Russia has previously deployed thermobaric rocket launchers in Ukraine, according to Ukrainian officials, who shared footage of their forces destroying one.
Russia reported shelling in Belgorod this week, and said it repelled an attempted incursion on Thursday. It blamed Ukraine, which has denied responsibility for previous attacks. No one has directly taken responsibility so far.
This came after Russian groups that oppose President Vladimir Putin and the war in Ukraine claimed responsibility for a series of attacks in Belgorod last month. Russia said action there killed civilians and damaged buildings.
The UK MOD said that with the equipment deployed, the "Russia military and interior forces have likely seen quicker success in containing this raid than the previous one."
But it also said that Russia now has a dilemma when it comes to using parts of its military strength within its own borders or in Ukraine, where its has struggled to supply its forces with advanced weaponry.
"Russian commanders now face an acute dilemma of whether to strength defenses in Russia's border regions or reinforce their lines in occupied Ukraine," the MOD said.
The two groups who took responsibility for the May attacks in Belgorod — the Liberty of Russia Legion and the Russian Volunteer Corps — have not taken responsibility for actions in the region this past week.
But the Liberty of Russia Legion said on Thursday that it would enter the country again soon and teased more attacks, pledging to "liberate the whole of Russia."
The Liberty of Russia Legion says it cooperates with Ukraine's military, but Ukraine denies any involvement with attacks in Belgorod and said the group is made up entirely of dissident Russians.
Ukraine denies any involvement with the Russian Volunteer Corps.
Both groups were formed after Russia's invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022.
Belgorod has also seen damage directly caused by Russian forces during the war: Russia's military said that its own air force accidentally dropped a bomb on the city in April.