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Russian Arms: Breaking The Law?

In his State of the Union address, President Clinton said Russia is being held back by a "cruel and self-defeating war in Chechnya."

A Kremlin spokesman shot back Friday, saying the West is trying to impose its own ideas of how to fight terrorism. Russia has its own ideas and, as CBS News Correspondent Allen Pizzey reports, some of them may be outside the law.

The sentence "War is hell," sums up the battle for Grozny, and there is evidence that the Russians are giving it new meaning with a previously secret weapon whose use there some analysts say could be a war crime. It's called TOS-1, and it's described as the conventional answer to a tactical nuclear weapon. Reporting on its display at an arms show Russian TV said that after a TOS-1 hits, "The only thing left of the enemy is a memory."

The rockets contain a mixture that resembles diesel fuel and napalm.

"It can fire all 30 rockets in about seven -and-a-half seconds," says Christopher Foss, Editor of Jane's Land Forces. "It creates a massive over-pressure which will destroy anything underneath it completely."

In Russian military slang TOS-1 is called Pinocchio. Asked about it Friday, Russian General Valery Manilov replied, "Ah, Pinocchio. I have no information about the use of this kind of weapon.""

Using incendiary weapons where there are civilians is a violation of the 1980 Geneva Convention on the rules of war. Military analysts in Washington told CBS News they believe the Russians have deployed and used the TOS-1 in Chechnya, but do not have enough hard evidence to say so conclusively.

But Russian troops in Chechnya do. Describing an attempt to flush out Chechen guerrillas, one soldier said, "On the third day, we hit them with Pinocchios."

An independent Russian military analyst, Pavel Felgenauer, said he is in no doubt that pictures from Chechnya taken in December show Pinocchio missiles, and that their use is a war crime.

"When I discussed this with Russian generals they said, 'well you know, Pavel,' they said, 'in war no law counts. In war you can do anything.' That's the opinion of the Russian military."

And evidence suggests is that they may well be practicing what they preach.