Russian President Vladimir Putin has stated that Russia possesses a stockpile of cluster munitions and would consider using them against Ukraine in response to their use against Russia. Putin’s remarks come shortly after Ukraine received a delivery of American-made cluster munitions, although Ukrainian military officials claim they have not yet been utilized.
Cluster munitions are highly controversial due to their potential danger to civilians and non-combatants. They scatter explosive material, known as “bomblets,” over large areas, posing risks to anyone who encounters them, even years after deployment. These weapons, which release multiple explosives across an extensive area, have prompted over 100 countries, including the United Kingdom, France, and Germany, to sign a treaty prohibiting their use.
The decision by the United States to provide cluster munitions to Ukraine has drawn criticism from human rights groups. However, US President Joe Biden defended the decision, stating that it was made to ensure Ukraine has sufficient ammunition to counter Russian forces and regain control of Ukrainian territory. The US Defense Department asserts that Ukraine provided written assurances that the cluster munitions would not be employed in urban areas.
Putin acknowledged that the Biden administration labeled the use of cluster munitions as a war crime, a sentiment with which he agreed. Notably, the United Nations and CNN investigations have documented instances of Russia’s use of cluster munitions in populated areas during the conflict.
As tensions escalate between Russia and Ukraine, the issue of cluster munitions adds to the complexities and risks faced by both sides, raising concerns about the potential humanitarian impact and long-term consequences of their use in the region.