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US expected to provide cluster bombs to Ukraine

Human Rights Watch calls for immediate halt and urges US not to supply bombs amid reports Biden is to include them in aid package

Human Rights Watch has called on Russia and Ukraine to stop using cluster bombs, and urged the US not to supply the munitions to Kyiv, amid reports the Biden administration is poised to include the controversial weapons in a new military aid package.

Russian and Ukraine forces have used cluster bombs, which break apart in the air and release large numbers of smaller bomblets across a wide area.

The bomblets are designed to detonate on hitting the ground, but do not always explode, posing a risk to civilians for years afterwards. The weapons, first used in the second world war, were banned by more than 120 nations under the Convention on Cluster Munitions in 2008. Russia, Ukraine and the US have all declined to sign the treaty.

Kyiv has urged members of the US Congress to press the White House to approve sending over cluster bombs. US officials say cluster bombs would be effective for Ukraine against Russian forces in strong defensive positions.

The White House said on Thursday that providing cluster munitions to Ukraine is under “active consideration”, and US officials told Reuters that the administration is expected to announce the new weapons aid package that will include these weapons on Friday.

Ukrainian and Russian forces have used cluster munitions that caused numerous civilian deaths and serious injuries, Human Rights Watch said in a report on Thursday, calling on both sides to immediately stop using the “inherently indiscriminate” weapons.

US officials have claimed that any munitions provided to Ukraine would have a reduced “dud rate”, meaning there will be far fewer unexploded rounds that could later result in unintended civilian deaths.

Ukraine fired cluster munition rockets into Russian-controlled areas in and near the eastern Ukrainian city of Izium last year, causing many casualties among Ukrainian civilians, the rights group said, citing interviews with more than 100 residents, witnesses and local emergency personnel. The Ukrainian attacks killed at least eight civilians and wounded at least 15 civilians in Izium, it said.

The group has previously reported that Russia’s use of cluster bombs in Ukraine resulted in the deaths of scores of civilians, and the United Nations human rights council has also documented the use of such bombs by both sides.

“Cluster munitions used by Russia and Ukraine are killing civilians now and will continue to do so for many years,” said Mary Wareham, acting arms director at Human Rights Watch. “Both sides should immediately stop using them and not try to get more of these indiscriminate weapons.”

Transferring cluster bombs to Ukraine would inevitably cause long-term suffering for civilians, the group said. It warned that the use of cluster munitions in areas with civilians makes an attack indiscriminate in violation of international humanitarian law, and possibly a war crime.

Source: The Guardian