KYIV, Ukraine – Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview published Sunday that Russia has a “sufficient stockpile” of cluster munitions and warned that Russia “reserves the right to take reciprocal action ” if Ukraine used the controversial weapons.
In his first comments on the delivery of cluster munitions to Ukraine by the United States, Putin said that Russia had so far not used cluster munitions in its war in Ukraine . The use of cluster bombs by Russia and Ukraine has been widely documented, including by the Associated Press and international aid organizations, and cluster bombs have been discovered as a result of Russian strikes.
“So far we haven’t done it, we haven’t used it and we haven’t had such a need,” he said.
Rossiya TV reporter Pavel Zarubin posted snippets of the interview on his Telegram channel on Sunday ahead of a scheduled Sunday evening broadcast.
The Pentagon said on Thursday that cluster munitions supplied by the United States had arrived in Ukraine.
Why the United States is Ready to Send Cluster Munitions to Ukraine Now
Munitions, which are bombs that open in the air and release dozens of small bombs, are seen by the United States as a means of obtaining critically needed munitions to help bolster its offensive and to cross the Russian front lines. US leaders debated the thorny issue for months, before President Joe Biden made the final decision last week.
Cluster munitions have long been criticized by humanitarian groups and some US allies because those used in previous conflicts have had a high “misfire rate”, meaning they often leave behind unexploded bombs that can injure civilians long after a battle is over.
Proponents say Russia has used cluster munitions in Ukraine before, and weapons supplied by the United States have been upgraded to leave behind far fewer unexploded rounds. Ukraine has promised to use them only away from densely populated areas.
Ukraine’s military said in a regular update on Sunday morning that in the past 24 hours Russia had launched two Iranian-made Shahed explosive drones, two cruise missiles and two anti-aircraft guided missiles, in addition to 40 airstrikes and 46 attacks from multiple rocket launchers. .
The Ukrainian General Staff wrote that Russia continues to focus on offensive operations in the industrial east of Ukraine. Donetsk regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said on Sunday that two local residents were killed on Saturday and another person was injured.
Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said on Sunday that fighting in eastern Ukraine had “intensified somewhat”, amid a slow counteroffensive in which Ukraine has made small territorial gains.
Writing on Telegram, she said Russia had been “actively attacking” in the direction of Kupyansk in the northeast region of Kharkiv for two consecutive days, and that Ukrainian forces were “on the defensive” in the area.
“There are fierce battles, the positions of both sides dynamically changing several times a day,” she wrote.
Maliar wrote that Ukrainian troops were trying to hold their positions on the northern flank around the destroyed town of Bakhmut, but reported that Ukrainian forces were “advancing daily” on the southern flank. Ukraine has been trying to encircle the city since losing control of it to Russia in May.
Putin claimed the Ukrainian counteroffensive had been futile, in another excerpt published by Zarubin.
“All attempts by the enemy to break through our defenses (…) have been unsuccessful throughout the offensive. The enemy has had no success! said Putin.
Elsewhere in the country, two boys, aged 8 and 10, were injured when an explosive device left behind by Russian forces detonated in the southern region of Kherson on Sunday, according to Ukraine’s prosecutor general’s office.
Regional Governor Oleksandr Prokudin said Russia had launched 69 bombardments against the Kherson region. A 59-year-old man died on Saturday while trying to disarm a shell in the regional capital, also called Kherson.
Yurii Malashko, governor of the nearby partially occupied Zaporizhzhia region, said Russia attacked 13 populated areas in the region, injuring seven people in the city of Stepnohirsk.
On Sunday, Moscow-based authorities in Russian-occupied Crimea reported a “massive and prolonged” overnight drone attack on Sevastopol, the peninsula’s largest port, home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. According to the Moscow-based governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhaev, the air defense shot down all the drones and there was no damage.
Vyacheslav Gladkov, the governor of Russia’s Belgorod region, said a woman was killed by shelling on Sunday in the town of Shebekino near the border with Ukraine.
Morton reported from London. AP journalist Felipe Dana contributed to this report.