Putin threatens to use cluster bombs after US munitions supply arrives in Ukraine

16 July 2023, 14:56

Putin has warned that he will use cluster bombs if Ukraine do
Putin has warned that he will use cluster bombs if Ukraine do. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Russian President Vladimir Putin has threatened to use cluster bombs in Ukraine after US munitions arrived in Kyiv.

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Putin said that Russia has a "sufficient stockpile" of cluster munitions, and warned that Russia "reserves the right to take reciprocal action" if Ukraine used the controversial weapons.

He also claimed that Russia has not used cluster bombs in its war in Ukraine so far.

"Until now, we have not done this, we have not used it, and we have not had such a need," he said in an interview on Sunday, despite the use of cluster bombs by both Russia and Ukraine being widely documented.

Rossiya TV reporter Pavel Zarubin shared excerpts of the interview to Telegram ahead of a scheduled broadcast on Sunday night.

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The Pentagon said on Thursday that cluster munitions provided by the United States had arrived in Ukraine.

The munitions, which are bombs that open in the air and release scores of smaller bomblets, are seen by the US as a way to get Kyiv critically needed ammunition to help bolster its offensive and push through Russian front lines.

US leaders debated the thorny issue for months, before President Joe Biden made the final decision last week.

Cluster bombs have long been criticised by humanitarian groups, and some US allies, because those used in previous conflicts have had a high "dud rate", meaning that they often leave behind unexploded bomblets that can harm civilians long after a battle has ended.

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The UK has refused to use them, store them or supply them as part of an international convention.

"The UK is signatory to a convention which prohibits the production or use of cluster munitions and discourages their use," PM Rishi Sunak said.

"We will continue to do our part to support Ukraine against Russia's illegal and unprovoked invasion, but we've done that by providing heavy battle tanks and most recently long-range weapons, and hopefully all countries can continue to support Ukraine.

"Russia's act of barbarism is causing untold suffering to millions of people.It's right that we collectively stand up to it and I'll be heading off to the Nato summit next week in Vilnius, where we will be discussing exactly this with our allies how we can strengthen our support for Ukraine."

The United States is not a signatory to the convention and neither is Ukraine, hence both countries deciding to move ahead with using them.

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Proponents argue that Russia has already been using cluster munitions in Ukraine and that the weapons the US is providing have been improved to leave behind far fewer unexploded rounds.

Ukraine has promised to use them only away from densely populated areas.

On the ground, the Ukrainian military said in a regular update on Sunday morning that over the previous 24 hours Russia had launched two Iranian-made Shahed exploding drones, two cruise missiles and two anti-aircraft guided missiles, in addition to 40 air strikes and 46 attacks from multiple rocket launchers.

The Ukrainian General Staff wrote that Russia continues to concentrate on offensive operations in Ukraine's industrial east.

Donetsk regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said on Sunday that two residents of the region were killed on Saturday, and one other person was wounded.