Biden says he decided to send controversial cluster bombs to Ukraine because kyiv ‘runs out of ammunition’

  • Joe Biden has agreed to send deadly cluster munitions to Ukraine.

  • He defended his decision and said Ukraine needed them because they “lack ammunition”.

  • Controversial weapons are banned under an international treaty signed by 123 countries, but not the United States.

President Joe Biden has defended his decision to send controversial and deadly cluster munitions to Ukraine, saying it was because Kiev was “running out of ammunition” after 500 days of war.

“It was a very difficult decision on my part. And by the way, I discussed it with our allies, I discussed it with our friends on the Hill,” Biden told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria on Friday.

“The Ukrainians are running out of ammunition,” he added.

The United States finally agreed to send the weapons under a new $800 million security assistance package on Friday, after months of requests from kyiv.

The cluster munitions will be compatible with US-supplied 155mm howitzers, which have been a key artillery piece for Ukrainian forces, CNN reported.

Cluster bombs are particularly dangerous because they break up into several small bomblets when fired, some of which do not always explode on impact. Unexploded ordnance can endanger civilians for years to come, like landmines.

Experts say the cluster bombs will come in handy for Ukrainian forces against well-dug Russian trenches amid a grueling counteroffensive.

However, the deadly weapons are highly controversial and are banned under an international treaty signed by 123 countries – but not the United States, Russia and Ukraine.

A casing of a fragmentation rocket lies on the snowy ground in Zarichne on February 6, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

A casing of a fragmentation rocket lies on the snowy ground in Zarichne on February 6, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP via Getty Images

Human Rights Watch said last year that Russia was actively using cluster bombs in Ukraine and had killed and maimed hundreds of civilians with them.

Biden told Zakaria the weapons were being sent to Ukraine for a “transition period” until the United States was able to produce more 155mm artillery.

“It’s an ammunition war. And they’re running out of that ammunition, and we’re running out of it,” Biden said.

“And so, what I finally did, I took the recommendation of the Ministry of Defense to – not permanently – but to allow this transition period, while we get more 155 weapons, these shells , for Ukrainians.”

Ukraine launched its long-awaited counteroffensive to retake Russian-occupied territory in early June, but gains so far have been slow.

Biden said it took him a while “to be convinced” to send the cluster bombs, but he finally decided Ukraine “needs them.”

Former British Army chief of staff Lord Dannatt said Biden’s decision risked ‘fracturing’ NATO harmony, given that so many NATO countries had them prohibited.

Responding to Biden’s decision, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak noted on Saturday that the UK was a signatory to the international treaty banning and discouraging their use, but said his government would continue to support Ukraine in other ways.

Ukraine must investigate its use of banned ‘butterfly’ anti-personnel mines

18 PFM-1 in cluster distributor.  Also known as "butterfly"  mines.

18 PFM-1 in cluster dispenser. Also known as “butterfly” mines.German Army Combat Training Center Letzlingen 2019 / Wikicommons

Last week, Human Rights Watch called on Ukraine to investigate the use of banned landmines by the Ukrainian military after new evidence was discovered that they had caused civilian casualties.

The group called on Ukraine to investigate the use of Russian-made PFM-1 antipersonnel mines around the town of Izium in eastern Ukraine between April and September 2022. It said it has evidence of 11 civilian mine casualties, including one death.

Miniature PFM-1 mines, also known as “butterfly” or “petal” mines, are fired from rockets and scatter indiscriminately over a wide area.

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