UK 'discourages' use of cluster bombs, Rishi Sunak says, after US sends Ukraine £600m in banned weapons

8 July 2023, 13:30 | Updated: 8 July 2023, 17:38

Rishi Sunak said the UK discourages the use of cluster bombs, after the US said it would send them to Ukraine. Russia has already used them in the war (R)
Rishi Sunak said the UK discourages the use of cluster bombs, after the US said it would send them to Ukraine. Russia has already used them in the war (R). Picture: Getty

By Kit Heren

Rishi Sunak said that the UK 'discourages' the use of cluster bombs after the US agreed to send the controversial munitions to Ukraine.

Cluster munitions can kill indiscriminately, hitting civilians as well as soldiers, and can remain a danger for decades after the end of a war.

More than 100 countries including the UK have banned their use.

The White House confirmed on Friday that the decision to send cluster munitions to Ukraine had been pushed back for as long as possible due to the risk the weapons pose to civilians.

Ukraine has been asking the US for the weapons - which are banned in more than 100 countries - for some time as it suffers from a shortage of ammunition.

The weapons contain multiple explosive bomblets that are known as submunitions.

A Ukrainian war crimes investigator inspects a remain of what is believed to be a cluster bomb in Kherson Oblast
A Ukrainian war crimes investigator inspects a remain of what is believed to be a cluster bomb in Kherson Oblast. Picture: Alamy

Mr Sunak, who will be meeting US president Joe Biden in London on Monday ahead of a Nato summit, said the UK was providing tanks and long-range weapons to Ukraine instead.

The Prime Minister pointed to the UK's commitment to the convention on cluster munitions.

"Well, the UK is signatory to a convention which prohibits the production or use of cluster munitions and discourages their use," he 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.

Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak. Picture: Alamy

"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."

Defending the decision to send cluster bombs to Ukraine, the White House said Russia had already used similar weapons, and that Kyiv had committed to clearing up unexploded bomblets after the war.

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on Friday: "Ukraine has committed to post-conflict demining efforts to mitigate any potential harm to civilians and this will be necessary regardless of whether the United States provides these munitions or not because of Russia's widespread use of cluster munitions"

Paul Brand presses Ukrainian research fellow on US cluster bombs

"Ukraine would not be using these munitions in some foreign land. This is their country they're defending."

He added: "We are not looking to start World War Three."

The weapons package is believed to be worth around $800m.

Read More: Nato leaders to offer Ukraine major support package but not membership for now

Read More: Many faces of Wagner chief Prigozhin: Warlord’s disguises and chilling pictures of his home leaked after Russian raid

Joe Biden
Joe Biden. Picture: Getty

The US had previously been cautious to grant Ukrainian wishes as the weapons have the potential to kill indiscriminately, putting civilians at risk.

The weapons were first developed during the Second World War.

Unexploded bomblets have the potential to live in the ground for several years and can detonate unexpectedly.

The Pentagon said Russia has experienced high failure rates with the weapons.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Picture: Getty

The UN says Ukraine has also used the weapons, which it denies.

Colin H. Kahl, undersecretary of defense for policy, said: "We will be able to provide Ukraine with extra artillerly immediately.

"Russia has been using cluster munitions since the start of the war.

"The munitions we will provide Ukriane will have a dud rate of below 2.35%.

"We are working with Ukraine to reduce the risks associated with these weapons."

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