Cluster Munition Use in Ukraine Condemned

Internationally banned cluster munitions causing civilian casualties

Mines Action Canada strongly condemns the ongoing use of cluster munitions in Ukraine. The confirmed use of cluster munitions has resulted in civilian casualties in multiple Ukrainian cities. Since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, human rights organizations and investigative journalists have documented multiple cluster munition strikes in civilian areas. Mines Action Canada is deeply concerned about the humanitarian impact of these banned weapons and calls for the immediate end to their use.

Cluster munitions are weapons that contain multiple smaller submunitions that are released in the air to land randomly over an area the size of a football field. Civilians often make up over 90% of the casualties of cluster munitions at the time of use and when they fail to function as intended becoming de facto landmines. Over 100 countries including Canada have joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions which prohibits the possession and use of these weapons because of their unacceptable humanitarian impact. Russia and Ukraine remain outside the Convention.

“We know that when cluster munitions are used civilians pay the price. It is shocking to see these inhumane weapons used in Ukrainian cities. The bombing and shelling of cities is never acceptable, but the reported cluster munition strikes on a hospital and a pre-school bring a new level of horror to this conflict” said Program Manager, Erin Hunt. “The civilian harm caused by Russia’s use of cluster munitions in Eastern Ukraine from 2014 to 2015 and in Syria from 2015 has been well documented. Mines Action Canada calls on Russia to stop the use of this internationally banned weapon before more civilians are killed.”

The use of cluster munitions in Ukrainian cities over the past week will have a long term impact on life in Ukraine. Photos from Ukraine indicate that unexploded submunitions now contaminate residential areas in Kharhiv and other cities putting civilians at risk of death or injury. The threat from unexploded submunitions, which are more lethal than landmines, will linger for years to come preventing Ukrainians from living safely in affected areas and costing lives and limbs.

“Shopping mall parking lots, city streets and residential areas are now contaminated with unexploded submunitions. Canada can take action to help Ukrainian communities affected by cluster munitions by funding humanitarian mine action operators to carry out risk education and eventually clearance operations” added Paul Hannon, Executive Director of Mines Action Canada. “Risk education, which warns people about dangerous explosive remnants of war like submunitions, is an urgent need as most civilians in Ukrainian cities have never seen these weapons before. These life-saving messages can be shared during the conflict through social media, radio and television so there is no time to waste. Canada has a long history of funding mine action operations in Ukraine which needs to continue throughout the war and into peace time.”

In addition, Mines Action Canada calls on the Government of Canada and all States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions to continue to condemn the use of cluster munitions and strengthen the global stigma against these inhumane weapons.

Canadians should urge all family and friends in Ukraine to not touch any unexploded munitions or unknown items found after bombing or shelling and to alert local emergency services to the presence of dangerous items. Please do not share videos or photos of people picking up such lethal items.