After Ukraine reported that it received cluster munitions from the United States, Russian President Vladimir Putin said last weekend that Russia would reserve the right to use its stockpile of cluster munitions if Ukraine deploys them against Russian forces, Reuters reported.
Last Thursday, Ukraine confirmed that the US-supplied cluster munitions arrived last week, prompting the Kremlin to denounce the shipment.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu warned that Russia would deploy its stockpile if Ukraine used the controversial munitions.
The Pentagon also confirmed that a shipment of cluster bombs was sent to Ukraine.
Earlier this month, the Biden administration announced that it would be sending cluster bombs to Ukraine as part of the latest $800 million military aid package, the Associated Press reported.
The administration justified the move by citing Ukraine’s munitions shortage.
Ukraine said it would deploy the munitions to dislodge Russian forces in occupied territories but gave written assurances that the munitions would not be used against Russia itself.
More than two-thirds of NATO member countries have banned the use of cluster bombs due to the high casualty rate among civilians from the smaller “bomblets” that are released after the munitions detonate in the air.
Russia, Ukraine, and the United States did not sign on to the Convention on Cluster Munitions banning the production, use, or transfer of cluster bombs.
In an interview with TV Moscow, President Putin warned that while Russia has not used cluster bombs yet, “there is a sufficient stockpile of different kinds.” He said if Ukraine uses the US-supplied cluster munitions against Russia, “we reserve the right to take reciprocal action.”
The Russian president said he considered it a crime to use cluster bombs and claimed that so far, Russia has not needed to use them.
However, Putin’s claim is disputed.
According to Human Rights Watch, both Russia and Ukraine have used cluster munitions in the war.