Cluster Munition Ban Policy
Non-signatory Ukraine has acknowledged the humanitarian impact of cluster munitions but has not taken any steps to join the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Ukraine has participated as an observer in meetings of the convention, but not since 2014. It abstained from voting on a key United Nations (UN) resolution promoting the convention in December 2021.
Ukraine possesses a stockpile of cluster munitions that it inherited from the former Soviet Union. Russia has used cluster munitions extensively since its invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022, while Ukrainian forces appear to have used cluster munitions at least two times during the conflict.
Ukraine has not acceded to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
Ukraine has acknowledged the deadly long-term consequences of cluster munitions, but has not taken any steps to accede to the convention. Ukraine told the Monitor in 2010 and 2012 that it considered cluster munitions to be “legal weapons” and “an important component of Ukraine’s defense capabilities.”
Ukraine has also expressed concern at its capacity to comply with the convention’s obligations, particularly the eight-year deadline to destroy stockpiled cluster munitions.
Ukraine attended several meetings of the Oslo Process that created the Convention on Cluster Munitions, and participated as an observer in the formal negotiations in Dublin in May 2008.
Ukraine last participated as an observer in a meeting of the convention in 2014. It was invited to, but did not attend, the convention’s Second Review Conference held in November 2020 and September 2021.
In December 2021, Ukraine abstained from voting on a key United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution that urged states outside the Convention on Cluster Munitions to “join as soon as possible.” Ukraine has never explained why it has abstained from voting on the annual UNGA resolution promoting the convention since it was first introduced in 2015.
Ukraine has voted in favor of UNGA and Human Rights Council resolutions expressing outrage at the use of cluster munitions in Syria.
Ukraine is a State Party to the Mine Ban Treaty. It is also party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW).
Production and transfer
In 2010, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs official said that Ukraine has not produced cluster munitions and has not imported them.
There is no evidence that cluster munitions have been included in the artillery and rocket systems, or among other weapons, that Ukraine has acquired since Russia began its invasion of the country in February 2022. The lack of cluster munition transfers to Ukraine reflects the growing stigmatization of these weapons and the fact that most North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member states have either banned cluster munitions, or taken steps to align their policy and practice with the convention’s strict prohibition on the transfer of cluster munitions.
Stockpiling and destruction
Ukraine inherited a large stockpile of cluster munitions after the break-up of the Soviet Union and shared information on the types stockpiled in 2011, as detailed in the following table.
Cluster munitions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine
300mm Smerch 9M55K
KMGU containing BFK-AO2.5, BFK-ODC, BFK-PTAB, and BFK-AP cartridges of submunitions
At that time, Ukraine reported that cluster munitions constituted 35% of its stocks of conventional weapons, which totaled two million tons of ammunition. Of the cluster munitions, 34% were produced before 1980, while 36% were produced between 1981 and 1992 and were “planned to be stockpiled and might be used.” The remaining 30% comprised of antivehicle landmines.
Ukraine reported in 2011 that it destroyed approximately 10,000–20,000 tons of cluster munitions annually, and stated that it could take up to 60 years for it to destroy all stocks that were slated for destruction.
The Russian Armed Forces have used at least six types of cluster munitions in Ukraine since their invasion of the country began in February 2022.
Ukrainian forces appear to have used cluster munitions at least two times during the conflict:
- Ukrainian forces used Uragan cluster munition rockets in an attack on Husarivka, Kharkiv region, on either 6 or 7 March, when the village was under Russian control; and
- One civilian was injured by a missile carrying a cluster munition warhead in Yenakiieve, Donetsk region, on 22 March, which was under the control of Russian-affiliated armed groups at the time.
Ukraine has not denied using cluster munitions during the 2022 conflict, but says that “the Armed Forces of Ukraine strictly adhere to the norms of international humanitarian law.”
Hundreds of Russian cluster munition attacks have been documented, reported, or alleged to have occurred in Ukraine in 2022. Many of these attacks have occurred in populated areas, including Chernihiv, Kharkiv, Mykolaiv, Sloviansk, and Vuhledar. At least ten of Ukraine’s 24 provinces (known as oblasts) have been struck by cluster munitions: Chernihiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Donetsk, Kharkiv, Kherson, Luhansk, Mykolaiv, Odesa, Sumy, and Zaporizhzhia.
The six types of cluster munitions used by Russia in Ukraine in 2022 were all manufactured in Russia—some as recently as in 2021—or by its predecessor state, the Soviet Union. These include:
- The 220mm 9M27K-series Uragan (“Hurricane”) cluster munition rocket, which has a range of 10–35km and delivers 30 9N235 or 9N210 fragmentation submunitions;
- The 300mm 9M55K-series Smerch (“Tornado”) cluster munition rocket, which has a range of 20–70km and delivers 72 9N235 or 9N210 fragmentation submunitions.
- The 300mm 9M54-series “Tornado-S” cluster munition guided missile, which delivers 552 3B30 dual-purpose 9M544 submunitions or 72 9M549 antipersonnel submunitions;
- The 9M79-series Tochka ballistic missile, which is equipped with the 9N123K warhead containing 50 9N24 fragmentation submunitions;
- A cluster munition variant of the Iskander-M 9M723 ballistic missile; and
- The RBK-500 PTAB-1M cluster bomb, containing 268 PTAB-1M high explosive/antitank submunitions.
Ukrainian officials have expressed grave concern over Russia’s use of cluster munitions in the conflict. Ukraine’s prosecutor general, Iryna Venediktova, told a Security Council debate on 27 April 2022 that Russia’s use of cluster munitions in populated areas is proof that it “blatantly disregards international humanitarian law.” Venediktova has described cluster munitions as “one of the most treacherous weapons, operating indiscriminately and causing superfluous injury and unnecessary suffering among civilians.”
Russia’s use of cluster munitions in Ukraine has been condemned by at least 39 states in national or joint statements at UN bodies such as the Human Rights Council, Security Council, and UNGA, as of 1 July 2022. The cluster munition attacks have also been condemned by the European Union (EU), the NATO Secretary-General, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, UN Special Rapporteurs and Experts on human rights, and the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC).
In March 2022, the current president of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, the United Kingdom (UK), expressed grave concern at the use of cluster munitions after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Ambassador Aidan Liddle said he “calls upon all those that continue to use such weapons to cease immediately, and calls upon all states that have not yet done so to join the Convention without delay.”
Ukrainian government forces and Russian-backed anti-government forces used cluster munitions in eastern Ukraine from July 2014 until ceasefire in February 2015, according to independent investigations conducted by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). Both parties used two types of ground-fired cluster munitions: the 300mm 9M55K-series Smerch (“Tornado”) cluster munition rocket, containing 72 9N235 submunitions; and the 220mm 9M27K-series Uragan (“Hurricane”) cluster munition rocket, containing 30 9N235 or 9N210 submunitions.
Neither party to the conflict accepted responsibility for using cluster munitions. Ukraine repeatedly denied use and attributed the attacks to pro-Russian separatist groups and members of the Russian Armed Forces. Russia repeatedly drew attention to Ukraine’s use of cluster munitions but never acknowledged its role in the cluster munition attacks.
The 2014–2015 cluster munition attacks in Ukraine attracted widespread media coverage, public outcry, and condemnations from at least 32 states and the EU.
Previously, in 2010, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs official stated that Ukraine did not intend to use cluster munitions, except to defend itself from “outside aggression.”
 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 the destruction of its antipersonnel mine stockpiles under the Mine Ban Treaty was influencing how it views 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.
 For details on Ukraine’s cluster munition policy and practice up to early 2009, see Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Landmine Action, Banning Cluster Munitions: Government Policy and Practice (Ottawa: Mines Action Canada, May 2009), pp. 249–250.
 Ukraine participated as an observer at the convention’s Meetings of States Parties in 2010–2011 and 2014.
 “Implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions,” UNGA Resolution 76/47, 6 December 2021.
 “Situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic,” UNGA Resolution 74/169, 18 December 2019. Ukraine voted in favor of similar UNGA resolutions in 2013–2018. See also, “Situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic,” Human Rights Council Resolution 43/28, 22 June 2020.
 CMC meeting with Ruslan Nimchynskyi, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in Vientiane, 11 November 2010. Notes by the CMC.
 All NATO member states have signed or ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions except Estonia, Greece, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Turkey, and United States (US).
 “Impact of the CCW Draft Protocol VI (current version) on Ukraine’s Defense Capability,” presentation of Ukraine to the CCW-GGE on Cluster Munitions, Geneva, 1 April 2011, slides 3–4. The ZAB-series submunitions referenced by the Government of Ukraine are incendiary submunitions, not explosive submunitions.
 “Impact of the CCW Draft Protocol VI (current version) on Ukraine’s Defense Capability,” presentation of Ukraine to the CCW-GGE on Cluster Munitions, Geneva, 1 April 2011, Slide 2.
 HRW, “Intense and Lasting Harm: Cluster Munition Attacks in Ukraine,” 11 May 2022.
 Thomas Gibbons-Neff and John Ismay, “To Push Back Russians, Ukrainians Hit a Village With Cluster Munitions,” The New York Times, 18 April 2022.
 Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), “Situation of Human Rights in Ukraine in the Context of the Armed Attack by the Russian Federation: 24 February–15 May 2022,” 29 June 2022.
 HRW, “Ukraine: Cluster Munitions Launched Into Kharkiv Neighborhoods,” 4 March 2022; HRW, “Ukraine: Cluster Munitions Repeatedly Used on Mykolaiv,” 17 March 2022; and HRW, “Ukraine: Russian Cluster Munition Hits Hospital,” 25 February 2022.
 Statement of Iryna Venediktova, Prosecutor General of Ukraine, to the Security Council, “Ensuring accountability for atrocities committed in Ukraine,” 27 April 2022.
 Venediktova, Iryna (VenediktovaIV), “On March 1, Russia fired cluster bombs at civilian targets in the village of Chernomorske (Kherson region). Cluster munitions are one of the most treacherous weapons, operating indiscriminately and causing superfluous injury and unnecessary suffering among civilians.” 7 March 2022, 15:31 UTC. Tweet.
 Albania, Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Mexico, Republic of Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Romania, San Marino, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, and UK.
 Statement by Amb. Aidan Liddle, Permanent Representative of the UK to the Conference on Disarmament, Geneva, 3 March 2022.
 See, HRW, “Technical Briefing Note: Cluster Munition Use in Ukraine,” 22 June 2015.
 Because types of submunitions are identical in size, shape, and color, the only way to distinguish them is by their external markings and by measuring the size of the pre-formed fragments they contain. The Smerch and Uragan cluster munition rockets are fired from dedicated multi-barrel launchers mounted on an eight-wheeled vehicle. The 9N210 and 9N235 fragmentation submunitions are designed to self-destruct 1–2 minutes after being ejected from the rocket. Yet a significant number of cluster munition rockets malfunctioned after launch and fell to the ground with their full payload intact, while submunitions often failed to self-destruct as designed.
 Minister of Foreign Affairs Pavlo Klimkin acknowledged the “serious accusations…deserve the deepest investigation.” Letter from Pavlo Klimkin, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, to the editor of The New York Times, 30 October 2014. See also, statement of Ukraine, OSCE Forum for Security Co-operation, Vienna, 29 October 2014; and statement of Ukraine, CCW Protocol IV Meeting, Geneva, 12 November 2014. Notes by the CMC. 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. See, statement of Ukraine, UNGA First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, New York, 13 October 2015.
 See, statement of Russia, OSCE Forum for Security Co-operation, Vienna, 10 December 2014.
 The following states condemned the use of cluster munitions in Ukraine: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Burundi, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Ecuador, France, Guatemala, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mauritania, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Portugal, Russia, Rwanda, Slovenia, Somalia, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and United States (US). 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…Ukraine. We condemn any use of cluster munitions by any actor.” See, “The Dubrovnik declaration 2015: Spectemur agendo (judged by our actions),” Annex I to the Final Report of the Convention on Cluster Munitions First Review Conference, CCM/CONF/2015/7, Dubrovnik, 13 October 2015.
 CMC meeting with Ruslan Nimchynskyi, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in Vientiane, 11 November 2010. Notes by the CMC.