January 29, 2023

Juan Kabayan

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European bid to send cluster munitions to Ukraine

(FILES) A man walks past an unexploded tail section of a 300mm rocket which appear to contained cluster bombs launched from a BM-30 Smerch multiple rocket launcher embedded in the ground after shelling in Lysychansk, Lugansk region on April 11, 2022. (Photo by Anatolii STEPANOV / AFP)

WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) — A European country has proposed sending cluster munitions to Ukraine, believing the controversial weapons — whose use by Russia has been condemned — could help on the battlefield, an official said Wednesday.

An official from a European nation, who did not want to be identified by name or country, said his government approved the shipment and was seeking permission from Germany, which is involved in the production of the munitions and just completed an agonizing debate to send tanks to Ukraine.

A UN treaty backed by most Western countries bans the use and transfer of cluster bombs, which spread dozens of tiny explosives, often posing a threat long after a conflict ends.

Russia has not signed the treaty and the United Nations has voiced alarm over Moscow’s use of cluster munitions in populated areas since it invaded Ukraine last year.

The European official argued that cluster munitions have become more advanced and that the West needs to be “forward-leaning” to support Ukraine, which could use the weapons against any Russian troop advances.

“The Ukrainians are asking for them. They are legitimate weapons. The collateral damage isn’t that large anymore. It was extremely large in the ’40s and ’50s; now they are pretty manageable,” the official said on a visit to Washington.

“Ukraine needs to win the war. That’s the goal,” he said.

“Russians have been using all sorts of weapons that are 100 times more terrible than cluster munitions.”

The official acknowledged Germany may take time to make a decision.

Germany earlier Wednesday approved a long-sought delivery of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.

Germany had been seeking a commitment on tanks from the United States, which reversed course and said it would send Abrams tanks to Ukraine.

Foreign Policy magazine reported earlier this month that Turkey has shipped Cold War-era cluster munitions to Ukraine that were designed by the United States to destroy tanks. Turkey denied the report.

© Agence France-Presse