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Cluster ammunition. How it works? Why is it banned by many countries? How can it change the war in Ukraine? The expert explains

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Cluster munitions, which the Americans have committed to hand over to Ukraine, raise a lot of controversy. Although it carries many risks, it can help the Ukrainian army overcome the minefields and the dense network of Russian trenches that are slowing down the counter-offensive in the east of the country, military expert, retired Air Force Major General Sean Bell told Sky News. How does this kind of weapon work? And why have more than 120 countries banned it? We explain.

On Friday, the White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan announced that The US will deliver DPICM artillery cluster munitions to Ukraine for the first time. During a briefing at the White House, Sullivan confirmed that Ukraine has long sought these weapons, and in the face of declining stocks of ordinary artillery ammunition, cluster munitions will provide a “bridge” until production ramps up.

“Ukraine desperately needs weapons, they are asking for them. The spring counter-offensive is not going as smoothly as they would like. It is held back by heavily fortified and dense networks of trenches and minefields. Precision ammunition could be used to defeat them, but it is not as widely available. Cluster munitions can prove extremely effective against these obstacles and, importantly, are available in huge quantities, Sean Bell pointed out in an interview with Sky News on Saturday. As he added, if the cluster munitions prove to be highly effective in overcoming minefields, the Ukrainians will be able to carry out part of their offensive by cutting through the Russian defensive lines.

White House: US will transfer artillery cluster munitions to UkraineUS ARMY/Reuters/Forum

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What is cluster munitions?

Cluster munitions are various types of ammunition, the feature of which is the action of releasing or scattering several hundred meters above the selected target the contents of the “cassette”, which are projectiles (or grenades) containing explosive material. A burst (carrier) round contains from 3 to 1000 small armor-piercing and/or fragmentation rounds (called submunitions).

A cluster missile, which can be launched from the ground or air, scatters anywhere from a few to several hundred smaller shells near the target, which explode on contact with the target.

Cluster MissilesUS Army photo by 2nd Lt. Gabriel Jenko/DVIDS

Cluster munitions were first used during World War II. It was also widely used during the war VietnamLaos and Cambodia. It was also used in later years during the First Gulf War, in Chechnya or conflicts in former Yugoslavia.

Cluster munitions were banned by an international convention adopted at the Dublin Conference in 2008. So far, the document has been signed by 123 countries. However, the Convention was not ratified by United StatesRussia and Ukraine, as well as Poland.


Why is it controversial?

The controversy stems from the fact that some of the smaller rounds remain unfired and may pose a threat to civilians for many years after these munitions have been used.

– The problem with cluster munitions is that when you try to hit a tank with it, you cause a series of explosions over an area the size of a football field. Surely one or two charges will hit the tank and destroy it. However, the vast majority will miss the vehicle at all and hit soft ground. Most bombs will explode, but a large proportion will not, about 10 percent,” Bell said.

Cluster MissilesUS Army photo by 2nd Lt. Gabriel Jenko/DVIDS

Places where this type of weapon has been used turn into veritable minefields, posing a deadly threat to the population. “Over the years, tens of thousands of civilians have lost their lives this way – and are still dying,” the former military man noted. He stressed that often the victims are children who dig out unexploded bombs that look like toys.

– The challenge is that (cluster missiles – ed.) will be used on Ukrainian soil. It is President Zelensky who will take the risk associated with it. He will assess whether the benefits outweigh the risks, and then he will have to face the long-term consequences of doing so, Bell said. In his opinion, cluster munitions “may prove decisive in breaking Russian defenses, but its use will come at a price.”

Cluster MissilesUS Army photo by 2nd Lt. Gabriel Jenko/DVIDS

Criticism of the use of cluster munitions in Ukraine was expressed by, among others, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. On Saturday, Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov assured that Ukraine would only use cluster munitions to liberate its territory within internationally recognized borders, and that weapons dangerous to civilians would not be used in urban areas.

Krzysztof Górlicki on the use of cluster munitions by the Russians (recording from March 19)TVN24

Sky News, BBC, PAP, tvn24.pl

Main photo source: US Army photo by 2nd Lt. Gabriel Jenko/DVIDS

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