The United States is reportedly set to approve arming Ukraine with longer-range missiles that are packed with cluster bombs, despite widespread concerns that they can cause indiscriminate casualties among civilians.
According to a Monday report, citing three unnamed US officials, Washington is “considering shipping either or both Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS) that can fly up to 190 miles (306 kilometers), or Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) missiles with a 45-mile (72-kilometer) range packed with cluster bombs.”
Ukraine is currently equipped with 155-mm artillery with a maximum range of 18 miles carrying up to 48 bomblets. The ATACMS can fire around 300 or more bomblets, while the GMLRS rocket system is capable of dispersing up to 404 cluster munitions.
“If approved, either option would be available for rapid shipment to Kiev,” the report said.
The munitions are expected to be used against Russian forces present in those Ukrainian territories, which have voted to join Russia since the onset of the war.
Washington has allocated more than $40 billion worth of military aid to Kiev since last February when the war started.
In September 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree for the formal accession of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia to the Russian Federation, which came following respective referendums in each of those regions.
Kiev, however, views those referendums as “illegal,” and has been pressing its Western allies to outfit it with long-range weaponry, so it can strike deep within those territories.
Cluster munitions generally eject bomblets that can cover five times as much area as conventional bombs.
They are banned under the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) because unexploded bomblets can pose a risk to civilians for years after the fighting is over.
The CCM, which took effect in 2010, bans all use, production, transfer, and stockpiling of cluster bombs. More than 100 countries have signed the treaty, but the US, Russia, and Ukraine are yet to join.
Last month, Russian Ambassador to Washington Anatoly Antonov lashed out at the US over its support for Ukraine’s use of the globally-banned munitions, noting that the bombs have already killed a Russian journalist.
Antonov slammed Pentagon Press Secretary Pat Ryder for the latter’s earlier remarks claiming that the US has “all indications” that Ukraine is “properly” employing cluster munitions.
“Attempts by US officials to portray Ukraine’s use of controversial cluster munitions as appropriate and legitimate are shameless and outrageous,” Antonov said, adding, “I would like to know whether ‘the proper use’ of cluster bombs is also true for the assassination of Russian journalist Rostislav Zhuravlev.”
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