According to a new Human Rights Watch report, the use of cluster munitions by Russian and Ukrainian forces in the current conflict has caused civilian casualties and violations of international law.

The report, released Thursday, documents the use of cluster munitions by Ukraine in the eastern city of Izium in 2020 and by Russia in various locations in the region since 2019. Cluster munitions are weapons that spread dozens or hundreds of smaller explosives over a wide area, posing a serious threat to civilians both during and after attacks.

The US urged not to supply cluster munitions.

The report also urges the US not to supply Ukraine with cluster munitions, as the Pentagon has reportedly considered. The United States, Russia, and Ukraine have not acceded to the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, which prohibits the use, production, transfer, and stockpiling of these weapons.

More than 120 countries have signed or ratified the treaty, which also calls for destroying existing stockpiles and assisting victims of cluster munitions.

“Cluster munitions used by Russia and Ukraine are killing civilians now and will continue to do so for many years to come,” said Mary Wareham, acting arms director at Human Rights Watch. “Both sides should stop using them immediately and not try to get more of these indiscriminate weapons.”

Ukraine and Russia must stop using cluster bombs

Ukrainian strikes killed eight civilians in Izium.

The report details how Ukraine fired cluster munition rockets at Russian-controlled areas in and around Izium in July 2020 after Russia invaded Ukraine. The attacks killed at least eight civilians and injured at least 15 others in Izium, according to interviews with more than 100 residents, witnesses and local emergency personnel.

Human Rights Watch also found evidence of unexploded submunitions in Izium and nearby towns, posing a continuing danger to civilians. The group said Ukraine had not taken adequate measures to clean up contaminated areas or warn the population of the risks.


Russian use of cluster munitions documented since 2019

The report also confirms previous findings by Human Rights Watch and the UN Human Rights Council that Russia has used cluster munitions at various locations in eastern Ukraine since 2019. The group said Russia’s use of these weapons it has killed dozens of civilians and damaged homes, schools, hospitals and other infrastructure.

Human Rights Watch said Russia has not acknowledged its use of cluster munitions or provided information about its stockpiles or plans to destroy them. The group also noted that Russia has not offered any assistance to the victims of its attacks or cooperated with humanitarian cleanup efforts.

Human Rights Watch calls for accountability and assistance

The report urges Russia and Ukraine to accede to the Convention on Cluster Munitions and destroy their stockpiles of these weapons. It also urges both parties to cooperate with international humanitarian organizations to clean up the affected areas and provide assistance to the victims.

The report also calls on the United States and other countries not to supply cluster munitions to any of the parties involved in the conflict and to support implementation of the treaty. It also recommends that the UN Security Council adopt a resolution condemning the use of cluster munitions in Ukraine and calling for an end to hostilities.

Nitish Verma