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Monitor blasts Russia’s ‘horrendous’ use of cluster bombs in Ukraine

Ukraine is only place in the world where such munitions are currently deployed, Cluster Munition Coalition says, adds that Kyiv also used cruel weapon at least 3 times during war

A photograph taken on July 3, 2022, shows the tail section of a 300mm rocket that appeared to contain cluster bombs and was launched from a BM-30 Smerch multiple rocket launcher, embedded in the ground after shelling in Kramatorsk, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Genya Savilov/AFP)
A photograph taken on July 3, 2022, shows the tail section of a 300mm rocket that appeared to contain cluster bombs and was launched from a BM-30 Smerch multiple rocket launcher, embedded in the ground after shelling in Kramatorsk, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Genya Savilov/AFP)

GENEVA, Switzerland (AFP) — Russia’s “extensive” cluster bombing in Ukraine has had a “horrendous impact,” causing hundreds of civilian casualties and damaging homes, schools, and hospitals, a monitoring body said Thursday.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, “hundreds” of cluster munition attacks by Russian forces have been documented, reported, or are alleged to have occurred, the Cluster Munition Coalition said in an annual report.

“Russia’s extensive use of internationally-banned cluster munitions in Ukraine demonstrates a blatant disregard for human life, humanitarian principles, and legal norms,” the CMC’s Mary Wareham said.

This “terrible development” is “unconscionable and deserves condemnation,” she added.

Dropped from planes or fired from artillery, cluster bombs explode in mid-air, scattering bomblets over a wide area. They pose a lasting threat as many fail to explode on impact and effectively act as landmines.

Ukraine is the only country where cluster munitions are currently being deployed, the CMC said in an overview of their use around the world.

Ukrainian forces also appear to have used cluster munitions at least three times, the civil society campaign said.

‘Devastating number’

Focusing on the war in Ukraine, the report said there had been a “devastating number of cluster munition attacks during Russia’s invasion.”

Preliminary data indicates at least 689 casualties during the first half of 2022: 215 killed and 474 injured.

Many further casualties may have gone unrecorded, the report said.

The attacks “mostly affected civilian infrastructure” and where their status was known, “all of the casualties in Ukraine were civilians,” said the CMC.

“While these early reports do not yet represent a full or precise account of the situation, they clearly indicate the extensive and horrendous impact of cluster munitions in Ukraine,” the report added.

“The CMC urges Russia to immediately put an end to these indiscriminate attacks,” it said.

‘Stigma’

Russia is continuing to produce cluster munitions and has used at least six types in Ukraine during 2022, including at least two new ones, according to the report.

There is no evidence of Ukraine acquiring cluster munitions from other countries this year, the CMC said.

Cluster bomb munitions found in Syria (photo credit: image capture HumanRightsWatch/Youtub)
An illustrative photo of cluster bomb munitions found in Syria. (Image capture/HumanRightsWatch/YouTube)

Neither Russia nor Ukraine have joined the convention prohibiting the use, transfer, production, and stockpiling of cluster bombs, which has 110 state parties and 13 other signatories.

The state parties are due to meet next Tuesday at the United Nations in Geneva.

“Unequivocally condemning ongoing use of cluster munitions in Ukraine is crucial to strengthen the stigma against these weapons,” said Wareham.

Use in 2021

Last year, 149 new cluster munition casualties were recorded — 59 killed and 90 injured — across nine countries and two other territories, chiefly Syria, Iraq, Laos, and Yemen.

Of the casualties, 144 were civilians, while children accounted for 66 percent of all casualties where the age group was known.

The casualties were all caused by remnants of cluster munitions.

The total number was sharply down on the 360 casualties in 2020, and way down on the Syria-dominated 1,117 in 2016.

In total, 26 countries and three other territories are known or thought to have cluster munition contamination.

Laos and Vietnam have “massive” contamination at more than 1,000 square kilometers (386 square miles), followed by Cambodia and Iraq.

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