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MOSCOW, July 16 (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin has said Russia has a “sufficient stockpile” of cluster bombs and reserves the right to use them if such munitions, the use of which he considers a crime, were deployed against Russian forces. in Ukraine.
Ukraine said on Thursday it had received cluster bombs from the United States, its main military backer, which says the ammunition is needed to make up for shell shortages facing Kyiv forces as they mount a counteroffensive.
Cluster munitions are banned in more than 100 countries because they typically release large numbers of smaller bomblets that can kill indiscriminately over a wide area. Some of them inevitably fail to explode and can pose a danger for decades, especially to children.
Kyiv said it would use cluster bombs to dislodge concentrations of enemy soldiers when trying to retake its own territory, but would not use them on Russian territory.
Putin told Moscow state television that he would respond in kind if necessary.
“I want to emphasize that in the Russian Federation there is a sufficient stock of different types 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 he considers the use of cluster bombs a crime and that Russia has so far not needed to use them itself despite its own ammunition problems in the past.
Human Rights Watch says Moscow and Kyiv have used cluster munitions. Russia, Ukraine and the United States have not signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which prohibits the production, stockpiling, use and transfer of weapons.
Putin also told state television that he saw nothing wrong with Russian specialists examining captured Western military equipment and missiles, such as the Storm Shadow missiles supplied by Britain to Ukraine, in order to see if there was anything useful that could be used in Russian military equipment. (Reporting by Reuters Editing by Andrew Osborn)