The Associated Press reported Thursday that the Biden administration has decided to arm Ukraine with cluster bombs and will announce the munitions as part of a new $800 million arms package. The news comes after Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a report that said Ukraine has killed its own citizens using the munitions.
US officials told AP that they expect the arms package to be announced Friday. The White House used to be opposed to arming Ukraine with cluster munitions, as they are indiscriminate weapons that cause harm to civilians, but the concerns have waned.
Cluster bombs scatter small submunitions over large areas, making them especially hazardous to civilians who can find unexploded munitions years after they were dropped. Because of their indiscriminate nature, cluster munitions have been banned by more than 100 nations. The US, Ukraine, and Russia are not parties to the treaty, known as the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
The HRW report said that Ukrainian cluster munition rocket attacks in the eastern city of Izium in 2022 killed at least eight civilians and wounded 15 more. HRW also said Russia’s use of cluster bombs in the war has killed many civilians.
Ukraine’s use of cluster bombs on people living in its eastern territory goes back to 2014, when war first broke out in the Donbas. That year, HRW issued a report that said Kyiv was using the controversial munitions against populated areas of Donetsk. “The use of cluster munitions in populated areas violates the laws of war due to the indiscriminate nature of the weapon and may amount to war crimes,” HRW said.
According to Truthout, Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, issued a statement on Thursday warning the US against sending cluster bombs to Ukraine. He said doing so would “be escalatory, counterproductive, and only further increase the dangers to civilians caught in combat zones and those who will, someday, return to their cities, towns, and farms.”