The use of cluster bombs in Ukraine increases the number of victims of these munitions in the world by 686% | International
Incidents in which deaths or injuries were recorded worldwide due to cluster bombs increased from 149 in 2021 to 1,172 in 2022, a 686.5% increase, due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. This is detailed in the 110-page Cluster Munition Monitor 2023 report, published this Tuesday by the Coalition against Cluster Munitions (CMC), one of the most important NGOs on the subject. In Ukraine alone, these munitions killed or injured 916 people, most in direct attacks. Globally, nine out of 10 victims were civilians, and seven were children.
Ukraine thus surpasses Syria for the first time in 10 years as the country with the most incidents with cluster bombs, according to the CMC registry. The United States agreed last July to include these munitions in its military aid packages to kyiv, despite criticism from some allies such as Spain, Germany and Canada. Neither the United States, nor Ukraine, nor Russia are part of the list of 100 signatory countries of the convention to ban these types of weapons.
“All countries that have not banned these weapons must do so immediately. There can be no excuse for its continued use,” claims Tamar Gabelnick, director of the Coalition. Cluster bombs are fired with a projectile that releases dozens of submunitions, also called bomblets, into the air, which theoretically explode instantly, although their history shows that a high percentage of them remain undetonated, even for decades. The remains of the ammunition, according to the organization, represent a “constant threat” to civilians, especially children, attracted by the appearance of these bomblets, often brightly colored, which resemble a soda can or a ball. .
Both Russia and Ukraine have admitted to using such artillery. One of the deadliest attacks in the course of the war, at the Kramatorsk train station in April 2022, was caused by that type of bomb dropped by the Russian army. For its part, Kiev denied having used this type of weapon until the start of the counteroffensive last spring, but Human Rights Watch affirms that a cluster bomb launched by Ukraine killed eight civilians in the city of Izium, in the northeast of the country. .
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In July, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksi Reznikov — now in office after being dismissed this Monday by President Volodymyr Zelensky — declared that the use of these bombs sent from the United States would mean a “turning point” in the war. Furthermore, the Ukrainian Government justified that it would only use these weapons against military targets and away from the civilian population. Precisely, the main criticism from humanitarian organizations of the use of this type of ammunition is its indiscriminate nature and that, even if they are launched in military areas, it is impossible to avoid civilian victims. The Geneva Conventions, which regulate International Humanitarian Law, strictly prohibit attacks against the civilian population and consider these a war crime.
One fact that worries the NGO is the contamination of the remains of cluster bombs that is recorded in at least 26 countries, some of them European. In addition to Ukraine, the text mentions Germany, Serbia and Georgia.
In Germany, a signatory to the 2008 convention, munitions still appear at a former military training site 80 km northwest of Berlin. In March, the Government reported that 5.72 square kilometers of contaminated land had been cleaned, but another 5.28 square kilometers remain to be cleared. Berlin has committed to purifying its entire territory by 2025.
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