Ukraine says cluster munitions will be ‘game changer’ against Russia

The controversial weapons are widely banned but Ukraine says it needs them to make up for a shortage in conventional artillery shells.

Ukraine says cluster munitions will be ‘game changer’ against Russia

VILNIUS — Kyiv sees cluster munitions as the next “game changer” in its battle against Russian forces, Ukraine’s defense minister said Tuesday.

Speaking on the sidelines of the NATO summit, Oleksiy Reznikov rejected disapproval from some countries and humanitarian groups over the U.S. government’s decision last week to send Ukraine the controversial weapons.

“As we got in May 2022 155-millimeter artillery systems, it became a game changer. In July, we got different types of [Multiple Launch Rocket Systems] it became [the] next game changer … And I hope that cluster munitions [become] a next game changer as weaponry or ammunition for liberation of our temporarily occupied territories,” he said.

Reznikov insisted the use of these weapons would be limited to non-urban areas within Ukraine’s territory. Ukraine’s partners will also be informed about the use and effect of the cluster weapons, he said.

Earlier, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken also defended the decision to include these weapons in the U.S.’s next $800 million arms package to Kyiv.

“The stockpiles around the world and in Ukraine of the unitary munitions, not the cluster munitions, were running out, about to be depleted,” Blinken said in an interview with MSNBC. “And so, the hard but necessary choice to give them the cluster munitions amounted to this: If we didn’t do it, we don’t do it, then they will run out of ammunition. If they run out of ammunition, then they will be defenseless.”

Spain is among the most vocal opponents of the decision, with Defense Minister Margarita Robles saying the “legitimate defense of Ukraine … should not be carried out with cluster bombs.” The U.K. — a major arms supplier to Ukraine — has also expressed discomfort over the U.S. decision.

Cluster bombs are banned by many countries but not the U.S., Ukraine and Russia. The munitions drop explosive bomblets to kill enemy soldiers over a wide area, but unexploded munitions can pose a long-term threat to civilians.

Russia has been using its own cluster munitions against Ukraine since its invasion over a year ago and Ukraine also has responded with such weapons.