Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Exclusive: The Biden administration weighs Ukraine’s request for access to controversial cluster bombs stored in the US.

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Ukrainian officials and lawmakers have in recent months urged the Joe Biden administration and members of Congress to provide the Ukrainian military with cluster bomb warheads, weapons banned by more than 100 countries but continued to be used by Russia to devastating effect inside Ukraine. Is placed.

The Ukrainian request for the cluster bombs, described to CNN by several American and Ukrainian officials, is one of the most controversial Ukrainians have made to the United States since the war began in February.

Senior Biden administration officials have been studying the request for months and have not rejected it outright, CNN has learned, a detail that was not previously reported.

Cluster bombs are not accurate by design, spreading “bumlets” over wide areas that may not detonate on impact and pose a long-term risk to anyone, similar to landmines. Mark Hijne, a weapons expert and associate director for weapons at Human Rights Watch, said they cause “nasty, bloody fragmentation” to anyone hit by them, as dozens of submunitions detonate at once over a wide area. Huh.

Senior US officials have publicly stated that they intend to provide all possible assistance to the Ukrainians in order to gain the upper hand at the negotiating table with Russia, should the matter come to a head. But Western military equipment is not infinite, and as nuclear weapons dwindle, the Ukrainians have made it clear to the United States that they can use cluster munitions currently gathering dust in stores.

For Ukraine, cluster bombs could solve two major problems: a need for more ammunition for artillery and rocket systems that the US and other countries have provided, and a way to reduce Russia’s numerical superiority in artillery. Is.

The Biden administration has not ruled out this option as a last resort if stockpiles start to run dangerously low. However, some sources say that the proposal has not yet been widely considered, mainly because of legal restrictions that Congress has placed on America’s ability to move cluster bombs.

These restrictions apply to munitions that have an unexploded ordnance rate greater than one percent, which increases the likelihood that they pose a risk to civilian populations. President Joe Biden could lift that ban, but the administration has told Ukrainians that’s unlikely anytime soon.

What does Ukraine’s attack on Russia mean? 0:35

“Ukraine’s ability to move forward in the current and future phases of the conflict is not dependent on or in any way linked to the acquisition of such weapons,” a congressional adviser told CNN.

Both Ukrainians and Russians have used cluster bombs since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, but the Russians – who used the ammunition to devastating effect on civilians in Syria – have used them more often and carried out against civilian targets including parks, clinics and a Cultural Center, according to research by Human Rights Watch.

As reported, Russia’s use of these munitions – including its Smerch 300mm cluster rockets, which can launch 72 submarines over an area the size of a football field – has been documented in dozens of Ukrainian regions, including Kharkiv Is.

When asked about the negative perception of the use of cluster munitions, a Ukrainian official quickly replied that they would only respond in kind.

A Ukrainian official told CNN, “So what if Russia uses cluster munitions against us?” “anxiety [de Estados Unidos] This is collateral damage. We’re going to use them against Russian soldiers, not against the Russian population.”

CNN separately contacted the Office of the President of Ukraine and the Ministry of Defense. The President’s Office handed over CNN to the Defense Ministry.

The Defense Ministry told CNN that it does not comment on reports regarding requests for specific weapon systems or ammunition, preferring to await agreement with a supplier before making any public announcements.

The US is not a signatory to the 2010 ban known as the Cluster Bomb Convention, and maintains large stockpiles of these weapons. But administration officials believe that, in addition to congressional limits, the use of cluster munitions has too many drawbacks — the biggest being the risk they pose to civilians — that they should not be used unless absolutely necessary. justify the transfer. And for now, the United States does not believe that ammunition is essential to Ukraine’s success on the battlefield.

However, Ukrainian officials say the Russians are using cluster bombs on a large scale, and largely in civilian areas. For that reason, the Ukrainians have contacted the State Department, the Pentagon and Congress “several times” to lobby for the weapons, known as dual-use conventional weapons, multiple sources familiar with the effort told CNN Depression. told.

Ukrainian soldier Igor Ovcharak holds a deactivated cluster bomb from an MSLR missile in the Kharkiv region of Ukraine.

Ukrainian lawmaker Oleksiy Goncharenko is one of the officials pressing the United States to provide the bomb. “It’s extremely important, first of all because it will really change the situation on the battlefield,” he told CNN. “With them, Ukraine will end this war much faster, to the benefit of all.”

“Russia is using older styles, the most barbaric styles, of cluster bombs against Ukraine on a large scale,” Goncharenko said. “Personally, I was a victim of this. I was subject to this bombardment. So we have every right to use it against them.”

The first Ukrainian official and another source familiar with the requests said the Ukrainians wanted the cluster bombs to be compatible with both the US-supplied HIMARS rocket launchers and 155 mm howitzers, and argued that the ammunition would make Ukrainian troops more effective. would allow it to strike targets with larger and more dispersed targets. , such as the concentration of Russian troops and vehicles.

Neither the United States nor Ukraine is a signatory to the Cluster Bomb Convention, which prohibits the use, production, and stockpiling of cluster bombs because of the potential risk to non-combatants. According to a 2017 statement by Central Command, however, the United States began removing them in 2016 because they contained “hundreds of small ‘cluster bombs’ explosives that often remain unexploded on the battlefield, endangering civilians”. used to have.”

The United States replaced the improved dual-use conventional weapons with the M30A1 alternative warhead, known as DPICMs. The M30A1 contains 180,000 small tungsten steel fragments that shatter on impact and leave no unexploded ammunition on the ground. However, Ukrainian officials claim that the DPICMs now in US stocks can be of great help to the Ukrainian military on the battlefield, much more so than the M30A1.

“they [DPICMs] They are more effective when you have a concentration of Russian forces,” the Ukrainian official told CNN, noting that Ukraine has been asking for the weapons “for several months.”

“The Russians use all these cluster weapons, they don’t care,” the official said. “We’re going to fight against Russian soldiers, but the Russians fight in bunches with our citizens.”

CNN’s Oren Lieberman and Victoria Butenko contributed to this report.

Nation World News Desk
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