Putin Says Russia has “Sufficient Stockpile” of Cluster Munitions

July 17, 2023

In an interview published Sunday Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow has a “sufficient stockpile” of cluster munitions and warned of reciprocation if Ukraine uses such weapons.

The interview was Putin’s first comment on the topic since cluster munitions supplied by the United States have arrived in Ukraine last week.

“Until now, we have not done this, we have not used it, and we have not had such a need,” Putin falsely stated; both Ukraine and Russia have used cluster bombs since Moscow’s forces invaded its neighbor in February 2022. Ukrainian forces had recently begun using Turkish-provided cluster munitions.

The National Police of Ukraine have posted numerous photos of Russian cluster munitions shot down inside the country since the war began.

Cluster munitions, or cluster bombs, are canisters that carry tens to hundreds of smaller submunitions. They can be dropped from aircraft, launched from missiles or fired from artillery, naval guns or rocket launchers.

The munitions canister then breaks open at a specified height and the submunitions, or “bomblets,” spread out over an expanse of that area. They are timed to explode close to or on the ground, where they spread shrapnel. 

Cluster munitions have been banned by more than 120 countries, though not the United States, Ukraine or Russia, in part because of their high failure, or “dud,” rates. Somewhere between 10% to 40% of the munitions fail, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross. 

The Pentagon’s latest assessments, based on testing as recent as 2020, show that U.S. cluster munitions have failure rates of 2.35% or less. 

Last week, President Biden defended the decision to send cluster munitions to Ukraine, saying, “The Ukrainians are running out of ammunition.” He added that his decision was only on a temporary basis “to allow for this transition period where we have more 155 [mm howitzer] shells for the Ukrainians, to provide them with something that has a very low dud rate.”

Cluster munitions can kill, but they also target heavy artillery like tanks. Ukraine hopes that the cluster bombs will jump-start its counteroffensive, which has been struggling to make major gains over the past several weeks—though Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said Sunday that fighting in eastern Ukraine had “somewhat intensified.”

In Sunday’s interview, Putin insisted that Ukraine’s counteroffensive has been futile, asserting, “All attempts by the enemy to break through our defenses…they were unsuccessful during the entire offensive. The enemy is having no success!”

On the sidelines at this week’s annual NATO Summit in Lithuania, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelesnky thanked Biden for making the “difficult political decision” to send his forces the cluster weapons.

PHOTO: Russian cluster munition shot down in Ukraine, per National Police of Ukraine

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