Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Sunday that Russia has a “sufficient stockpile” of cluster bombs and threatened to take “reciprocal action” if Ukraine used the weapons against Russian troops.
The Pentagon confirmed on Thursday that Washington had delivered the cluster munitions, which over 110 countries worldwide have banned, to Ukraine.
Kyiv says it needs the explosive shells to compensate for ammunition shortages as it is currently mounting a counteroffensive against Russia’s invasion. Ukraine has said that cluster bombs would only be used on its own territory to dislodge Russian soldiers from occupied areas. Cluster bombs are filled with submunitions that are released in the air and make the weapons more effective against enemy troops but can also pose a risk for civilians.
“I want to note that in the Russian Federation there is a sufficient stockpile of different kinds of cluster bombs. We have not used them yet. But of course if they are used against us, we reserve the right to take reciprocal action,” Putin said in an interview Sunday with Russian state TV, according to Reuters.
“Until now, we have not done this, we have not used it, and we have not had such a need,” the president said. He said that he regarded the use of cluster bombs as a crime.
There is strong evidence, however, suggesting that Moscow has used cluster bombs in its war against Ukraine. In a report in May, Human Rights Watch said that “since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, Russian armed forces have used cluster munitions in attacks that have caused hundreds of civilian casualties and damaged civilian objects, including homes, hospitals, and schools.”
Neither Russia nor Ukraine nor the U.S. has ratified the international convention on banning cluster bombs.