Summary: Non-signatory Ukraine has not taken any steps to accede to the convention. It has participated as an observer in several of the convention’s meetings, most recently in 2014. Ukraine abstained from voting on a UN resolution on the convention in December 2015.
Ukraine is not known to have produced or exported cluster munitions, but inherited a large stockpile from the Soviet Union and sees military utility in cluster munitions. From mid-2014 until a February 2015 ceasefire, the armed forces of the government of Ukraine as well as Russian-backed armed opposition groups used ground-launched cluster munition rockets in Donetsk and Luhansk provinces in eastern Ukraine. The government of Ukraine has repeatedly denied using cluster munitions in the attacks.
Ukraine has not acceded to the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Ukraine has acknowledged the long-term and deadly consequences of cluster munitions, but has not taken any steps to accede to the convention. Ukraine informed the Monitor in 2012 that it “considers cluster munitions to be legal weapons which remain an important component of Ukraine’s defense capabilities.” Government officials have denied evidence that Ukraine used cluster munition rockets in the country’s eastern provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk in 2014 until February 2015. Ukraine has also stated that, if using its own resources alone, it would not be able to destroy the large stockpile of cluster munitions that it inherited from the Soviet Union within the eight-year stockpile destruction deadline required by the Convention on Cluster Munitions (see Stockpiling and destruction section below).
Ukraine has expressed a preference for cluster munitions to be tackled through the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) to which it is a party. Yet Ukraine has not reviewed or amended its position since the CCW’s failure in 2011 to agree on a draft protocol on cluster munitions, which effectively ended CCW deliberations on the matter. The CCW failure has left the Convention on Cluster Munitions as the sole international instrument to specifically address the weapons.
Unlike most non-signatories, Ukraine abstained from the vote on a UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution on the Convention on Cluster Munitions on 7 December 2015, which urges states outside the convention to “join as soon as possible.” Ukraine did not explain why it abstained on the non-binding resolution that 140 states voted to adopt.
Ukraine participated in several meetings of the Oslo Process that created the Convention on Cluster Munitions, including the formal negotiations in Dublin in May 2008 as an observer.
Ukraine participated as an observer in the convention’s Meetings of States Parties in 2010–2011 and 2014. It was invited to, but did not attend the First Review Conference of the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Dubrovnik, Croatia in September 2015.
Ukraine has voted in favor of UNGA resolutions condemning the use of cluster munitions in Syria, most recently in December 2015.
Ukraine is a State Party to the Mine Ban Treaty.
Production and transfer
Ukraine is not known to have produced or exported cluster munitions. In November 2010, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs official said that Ukraine was not producing new cluster munitions, and would not export or import the weapons from any other country.
Stockpiling and destruction
Ukraine inherited a large stockpile of cluster munitions from the break-up of the Soviet Union. During a CCW meeting on cluster munitions in April 2011, Ukraine provided information on the types of its stockpiled cluster munitions.
Cluster munitions of the armed forces of Ukraine
Cluster Munition type
220mm Uragan 9M27K
300mm Smerch 9M55K
KMGU containing BFK-AO2.5, BFK-ODC, BFK-PTAB, BFK-AP cartridges of submunitions
Ukraine stated that cluster munitions constitute 35% of its stockpile of conventional weapons, totaling two million tons of ammunition. Of these cluster munitions, 34% were produced before 1980. Another 36% were produced between 1981 and 1992 and “are planned to be stockpiled and might be used.” The remaining 30% contain antivehicle landmines.
Ukraine has reported the destruction of an average of 10,000–20,000 tons of cluster munitions annually. It has concluded that it could take 60 years to destroy the stockpiles that are currently slated for destruction.
In 2010, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs official said that Ukraine would not use cluster munitions except to defend itself from outside aggression. In the past, Ukraine has called for a moratorium on the use of what it has described as “inaccurate and unreliable” cluster munitions.
Previous use in 2014–2015
The first evidence that cluster munitions were being used in the conflict in eastern Ukraine appeared in Donetsk province in early July 2014 in media reports and social media postings. Field research conducted by Human Rights Watch in October 2014 and a follow-up investigation in January–February 2015 confirmed the use of cluster munitions by both Ukrainian government forces and Russian-backed anti-government forces. An Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) monitoring mission also reported cluster munition rocket attacks.
As of 1 July 2016, no cluster munition rocket attacks had been recorded since the ceasefire went into effect on 16 February 2015. Both parties to the conflict used two types of ground-fired cluster munitions in 2014 until the February 2015 ceasefire:
- The 300mm 9M55K-series Smerch (“Tornado”) cluster munition rocket, which has a minimum range of 20 kilometers and a maximum range of 70 kilometers, and delivers 72 9N235 submunitions.
- The 220mm 9M27K-series Uragan (“Hurricane”) cluster munition rocket, which has a range of 10–35 kilometers and delivers 30 9N235 submunitions or 30 9N210 submunitions.
The Smerch and Uragan cluster munition rockets are fired from dedicated launch tubes mounted on eight-wheeled vehicles. The 9N210 and 9N235 fragmentation submunitions are designed to self-destruct a minute or two after being ejected from the rocket.
As the following list shows, cluster munitions were used in dozens of urban and rural locations of Ukraine’s two eastern provinces in the period from July 2014 until the February 2015 ceasefire, with some places hit multiple times. Cluster munition rockets were used in attacks on Donetsk city and at least seven towns and villages throughout Donetsk province, including Artemivsk, Hrodivka, Ilovaisk, Komsomolske, Kramatorsk, Makiievka, Slavyansk, and Starobesheve. Cluster munition rockets have been used in attacks on Luhansk City and at least two towns in Luhansk province: Novosvitlivka and Stakhanov.
There is no evidence indicating that cluster munitions were used elsewhere in Ukraine, for example, in Crimea.
Human Rights Watch and international media such as The New York Times recorded numerous unexploded submunitions, indicating a significant number may have failed to self-destruct as intended. They also documented several Smerch and Uragan cluster munition rockets that malfunctioned shortly after launch, fell to the ground, and still contained their full payload of submunitions. As of July 2016, neither party to the conflict has taken responsibility for the use of cluster munitions in 2014 and 2015.
Since October 2014, Ukraine has consistently denied its use of cluster munitions and blamed the attacks on pro-Russian separatist groups. Minister of Foreign Affairs Pavlo Klimkin acknowledged the “serious accusations…deserve the deepest investigation.” At the Convention on Conventional Weapons in November 2014, Ukraine denied using cluster munitions. At the UNGA First Committee on Disarmament and International Security in October 2015, Ukraine continued to allege that “Russia-guided illegal armed groups” and members of the Russian armed forces carried out Uragan and Smerch rocket attacks in eastern Ukraine.
Russia has repeatedly drawn attention to Ukraine’s use of cluster munitions, but has not itself acknowledged or taken any responsibility for cluster munition rocket attacks by the separatist rebels backed by Russia.
The cluster munition rocket attacks in Ukraine have attracted widespread media coverage, public outcry, and condemnations from at least 32 states and the European Union. In 2015 and the first half of 2016, countries continued to issue statements and use various fora to express concern at the cluster munition use in Ukraine.
- At Convention on Cluster Munitions meetings in Geneva in June 2015, two-dozen states condemned recent use of cluster munitions, of which 12 referred to the use of cluster munitions in Ukraine.
- At the First Review Conference in September 2015, States Parties adopted the Dubrovnik Declaration, which affirms: “We are deeply concerned by any and all allegations, reports or documented evidence of the use of cluster munitions, including in Cambodia, Libya, South Sudan, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Ukraine and Yemen. We condemn any use of cluster munitions by any actor.” During the meeting, a dozen states specifically expressed concern at or condemned cluster munition use in Ukraine.
- During the UNGA First Committee on Disarmament and International Security in October 2015, states including Costa Rica, Norway, Ireland, and the Netherlands expressed concern at the use of cluster munition use in Ukraine. The UNGA resolution adopted on 7 December 2015 expresses “strong concern regarding recent allegations, reports or documented evidence of the use of cluster munitions in different parts of the world.”
States at the OSCE’s Permanent Council in Vienna have asked the OSCE mission to collect information and report on evidence of the use of prohibited cluster munitions. In 2015, states responded to the OSCE mission’s reports detailing cluster munition rocket attacks. Russia welcomed the mission’s “detailed analysis” of the use of cluster munitions.
A November 2014 report by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) expressed concern at the use of cluster munitions in Ukraine and urged the reports of use “be investigated promptly and thoroughly.”
 Statement of Ukraine, Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on Cluster Munitions, 8 April 2008. Notes by Landmine Action.
 Letter No. 4132/36-196-771 from Amb. Yuriy A. Sergeyev, Permanent Mission of Ukraine to the UN in Geneva, 23 April 2012; and Letter No. 181/017 from the Permanent Mission of Ukraine to the UN in Geneva, 29 April 2010.
 In 2010, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs official said that Ukraine’s “negative experience” with respect to securing international funding for the destruction of its antipersonnel mine stockpiles under the Mine Ban Treaty influences how it views the Convention on Cluster Munitions. According to the official, once Ukraine has fulfilled its Mine Ban Treaty obligations, it will consider accession to the Convention on Cluster Munitions. CMC meeting with Ruslan Nimchynskyi, Deputy Director-General, Directorate General for Armaments Control and Military Technical Cooperation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in Vientiane, 11 November 2010. Notes by the CMC.
 Letter No. 4132/36-196-771 from Amb. Sergeyev, Permanent Mission of Ukraine to the UN in Geneva, 23 April 2012.
 “Implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions,” UNGA Resolution 70/54, 7 December 2015. It also abstained during the first round of voting on the draft resolution in UNGA First Committee on Disarmament and International Security on 4 November 2015. “Implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions,” UNGA Resolution AC.1/70/L.49/Rev.1, 4 November 2015.
 For details on Ukraine’s cluster munition policy and practice up to early 2009, see Human Rights Watch and Landmine Action, Banning Cluster Munitions: Government Policy and Practice (Ottawa: Mines Action Canada, May 2009), pp. 249–250.
 “Situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic,” UNGA Resolution 70/234, 23 December 2015. Ukraine voted in favor of similar UNGA resolutions on 18 December 2014 and 18 December 2013.
 CMC meeting with Ruslan Nimchynskyi, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in Vientiane, 11 November 2010. Notes by the CMC.
 Presentation of Ukraine, “Impact of the CCW Draft Protocol VI (current version) on Ukraine’s Defense Capability,” Geneva, 1 April 2011, Slides 3–4.
 Ibid., Slide 2.
 CMC meeting with Ruslan Nimchynskyi, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in Vientiane, 11 November 2010. Notes by the CMC.
 Letter No. 181/017 from the Permanent Mission of Ukraine to the UN in Geneva, 29 April 2010. It first called for such a moratorium in April 2008; and statement of Ukraine, CCW GGE on Cluster Munitions, 8 April 2008. Notes by Landmine Action.
 For an overview of the methodology used by the organization to confirm the use of cluster munitions please see the methodology section in this publication: Human Rights Watch, “Technical Briefing Note: Cluster Munition Use in Ukraine,” June 2015.
 The submunitions are identical in size, shape, and color. The only way to distinguish between them is by the size of the pre-formed fragments they contain and their painted-on external markings.
 For more detailed information, see Ukraine ban profile for Cluster Munition Monitor 2015. Unless noted, these incidents were all recorded by Human Rights Watch. The list of cluster munition rocket attacks does not aim to provide a comprehensive record of every instance of cluster munition use in eastern Ukraine, but is provided for illustrative purposes. See: “Ukraine: Widespread Use of Cluster Munitions,” Human Rights Watch News Release, 20 October 2014; and “Ukraine: More Civilians Killed in Cluster Munition Attacks,” Human Rights Watch News Release, 19 March 2015.
 Statement of Ukraine, CCW Protocol IV Meeting, Geneva, 12 November 2014. Notes by the CMC.
 Some of these states have condemned the use of cluster munitions in Ukraine on several occasions: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Burundi, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Ecuador, France, Guatemala, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mauritania, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Portugal, Russia, Rwanda, Slovenia, Somalia, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
 Austria, Belgium, Burundi, Costa Rica, Croatia, Ecuador, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Norway, as well as the ICRC. Germany expressed concern at reported cluster munition use in “eastern Europe.” Notes by the CMC and Monitor.
 “The Dubrovnik declaration 2015: Spectemur agendo (judged by our actions),” annexed to the Final Report of the First Review Conference of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, CCM/CONF/2015/7, 13 October 2015.
 Bosnia and Herzegovina, Costa Rica, Croatia, Ecuador, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, and Zambia. See, “High Level Segment,” Convention on Cluster Munitions First Review Conference, Dubrovnik, 7–9 September 2015.