Russia Utilizing Cluster Munitions on Ukrainian Cities – In what could be considered a war crime, Russian military forces have fired cluster munitions into at least three civilian areas in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, on February 28, 2022, according to Human Rights Watch. These attacks killed at least three civilians. However, that number is expected to rise after the UN reported other attacks being conducted.
“Kharkiv is under relentless attack from Russian forces and civilians are hiding in basements to evade explosions and debris,” said Steve Goose, arms director at Human Rights Watch. “Using cluster munitions in populated areas shows a brazen and callous disregard for people’s lives.”
Relying on multiple photos and 40 videos, the United Nations reported 46 civilian casualties, with 9 killed (6 adults and 3 children), and 37 injured (34 adults and 3 children). The 9M55K submunitions were delivered by the 12-barreled BM-30 “Smerch” Multiple Rocket Launcher System (MRLS) and each missile consisted of Russian-made 72 9N235 fragmentation submunitions.
What Are Cluster Munitions And How Are They Used?
As Russian troops increase their indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas causing fear and panic among the civilian populace, the use of cluster munitions among the civilian population was clearly revealed. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg accused the Russians of using cluster munitions on Friday calling them “a blatant violation of international law.”
“We have seen the use of cluster bombs and we have seen reports of the use of other types of weapons which would be in violation of international law,” Stoltenberg said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin denied that Russia is using cluster munitions against civilians and only against military targets, but the evidence was left behind everywhere.
But first, what are cluster munitions?
Cluster munitions can be fired from artillery, missile launchers, or be launched from aircraft. The container of cluster munitions then detonate in midair and release smaller bomblets that are powerful enough to kill a person or destroy a vehicle. Often these submunitions fail to detonate on impact, making them a danger if they are touched, long after hostilities have ceased.
Some reports have up to 40 percent of cluster munitions failing to explode on contact. The news reports coming from Kharkiv and other large cities have documented numerous photos of the bomblets lying on the ground.
Cluster munitions can cover a wide swath of areas sometimes as large as several football fields.
Stoltenberg said that NATO and its allies were “collecting information and monitoring very closely what is going on in Ukraine.”
“I also welcome the decision by the International Criminal Court to open the investigation to this because we have to make sure that President Putin, the president of Belarus are held accountable for what they do,” he added.
“This is brutality. This is inhumane. This is violating international law,” Stoltenberg said.
Human Rights Watch arms director Steve Goose said in a statement Friday, “Using cluster munitions in populated areas shows a brazen and callous disregard for people’s lives.”
“We are seeing mounting evidence of indiscriminate attacks on Kharkiv and the price civilians are paying for these serious violations,” he added. “If these deadly acts were carried out either intentionally or recklessly, they would be war crimes.”
Russia has also been accused of using thermobaric weapons or “Vacuum bombs” against Ukrainian civilians. US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield on Wednesday during an emergency session of the General Assembly issued a warning to Russian soldiers in Ukraine.
“Your leaders are lying to you. Do not commit war crimes,” she said in her remarks that Russia was to begin using banned weapons.
The Convention on Cluster Munitions banned the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions. It was a treaty signed by 100 nations and took effect on August 1, 2010.
Steve Balestrieri is a 1945 National Security Columnist. He has served as a US Army Special Forces NCO and Warrant Officer before injuries forced his early separation. In addition to writing for 19fortyfive.com, he has covered the NFL for PatsFans.com for more than 10 years and his work was regularly featured in the Millbury-Sutton Chronicle and Grafton News newspapers in Massachusetts.