US cluster bombs already in Ukraine – military

Kiev has already received cluster munitions promised by the US, a Ukrainian general has told CNN. Washington has attempted to justify the delivery of the controversial arms by claiming that Ukraine would minimize the long-term threat to civilians when using them.  

“We just got them, we haven’t used them yet, but they can radically change [the battlefield],” Brig. Gen. Aleksandr Tarnavsky told the US news network on Thursday. He added that he expects Ukrainian troops to push Russian forces back from their defensive positions thanks to the delivery. 

Cluster bombs discharge dozens of submunitions over a large area. Some of the bomblets fail to detonate and can maim or kill years after their deployment. Over 100 nations, including many NATO members, have banned their production and use. 

The US decided to supply Ukraine with old 155mm artillery shells with cluster payloads stockpiled during the Cold War. President Joe Biden described the move as a stopgap, claiming that Kiev’s foreign backers had no regular munitions of that caliber left to share, and that they were in the process of ramping up production

The US is not party to the 2008 convention on cluster munitions, but still had to bypass its own rules, which normally ban exports of cluster bombs with a dud rate of over 1% (meaning more than one in 100 submunitions fail to explode). 

The Dual-Purpose Improved Conventional Munitions (DPICMs) which the US has sent to Ukraine demonstrated an average dud rate of 14% during a 2000 study. The Pentagon, however, has claimed that less than 2.35% of bomblets would fail in the version supplied to Kiev’s forces.  

Tarnavsky insisted Ukraine would not fire cluster shells at settlements held by Russia.  

Ukraine has a stockpile of Soviet cluster munitions and has used them in places where unexploded bomblets posed a threat to civilians, according to Human Rights Watch. The international watchdog was among those to urge Washington to reconsider its plans. 

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said this week that Moscow has the means to respond in kind to Ukraine’s use of American arms. 

Russia has cluster munitions, as they say, for all occasions,” the minister warned, adding that the Russian arsenal is superior in capability and diversity. 

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