A Ukrainian general told CNN on Thursday that Ukraine has received a shipment of US cluster bombs, controversial munitions that have a devastating impact on civilians.
“We just got them, we haven’t used them yet, but they can radically change the situation on the battlefield,” Gen. Oleksandr Tarnavskyi said.
The Biden administration announced last week that it was sending Ukraine cluster munitions in the form of 155mm artillery shells as part of an $800 million weapons package.
It’s not clear how many have arrived in Ukraine so far, but Pentagon officials have said they will provide “hundreds of thousands” of rounds.
The cluster munitions are being provided using the Presidential Drawdown Authority, which allows President Biden to ship Ukraine weapons directly from US military stockpiles.
Cluster bombs scatter small submunitions over large areas, making them especially hazardous for civilians. Submunitions that don’t explode immediately on impact can kill or maim civilians for decades to come, as they have in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, where the US dropped hundreds of millions of bomblets during the Vietnam War.
Because of their indiscriminate nature, cluster bombs have been banned by over 100 countries. But the US, Ukraine, and Russia are not signatories to the treaty, known as the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
The Biden administration has defended arming Kyiv with the brutal weapons by saying both the US and Ukraine are running out of conventional artillery ammunition. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Ukraine would be “defenseless” without cluster bombs.
The administration’s rhetoric on cluster munitions has radically changed since the beginning of the war. On February 28, 2022, the White House said the use of cluster bombs in the Ukraine war would be a “potential war crime.”