Ukrainian Troops Sprinkled Deadly Cluster Munitions All Over the Place
Human Rights Watch finds evidence of indiscriminate attacks
Human Rights Watch has found evidence that Ukrainian troops deployed cluster munitions against Russian-backed separatists during recent fighting—killing at least six civilians and injuring or endangering many others.
This despite an expanding international convention banning the indiscriminate weapons, which scatter many small explosives over a large area. More than a hundred countries have agreed to the ban, but not Ukraine.
“During a week-long investigation in eastern Ukraine, Human Rights Watch documented widespread use of cluster munitions in fighting between government forces and pro-Russian rebels in more than a dozen urban and rural locations,” the rights group announced.
Among other victims, Laurent DuPasquier—a Swiss employee of the International Committee of the Red Cross—died in an Oct. 2 attack on Donetsk that included cluster munitions. Human Rights Watch investigators found some of the distinctive fragments from the cluster weapons near DuPasquier’s body.
“While it was not possible to conclusively determine responsibility for many of the attacks, the evidence points to Ukrainian government forces’ responsibility for several cluster munition attacks on Donetsk,” Human Rights Watch continued.
Ukraine blamed at least one cluster attack on or before Aug. 24 on Russian troops bombarding Ukraine from the Russian side of the border—specifically accusing Moscow’s troops of firing Uragan and Smerch cluster rockets. “Warning! The terrorists used prohibited ammunition against peaceful Ukrainians!” the press wing of Kiev’s anti-terrorist organization stated.
But the Ukrainian army also possesses the 220-millimeter Uragan and 300-millimeter Smerch rockets. Human Rights Watch stressed that it has reason to believe Kiev’s forces launched many of the cluster attacks in eastern Ukraine.
The rights group’s investigators inspected a dozen impact sites. “At each submunition impact point, there is a distinctive small crater and ‘splatter’ pattern in the ground where the submunition detonated,” the group noted.
The pattern is “quite distinctive,” according to Human Rights Watch. “There is also a discernible fragment impact pattern on surfaces like metal doors, trees and walls that are perpendicular to the detonation of the submunition.”
The patterns helped investigators determine the apparent origins of the attacks, indicating that the cluster munitions came from government-controlled areas outside Donetsk. The group said its employees also spoke to witnesses in the government areas claiming they saw rockets launching toward Donetsk.
“It is shocking to see a weapon that most countries have banned used so extensively in eastern Ukraine,” said Mark Hiznay, a researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Ukrainian authorities should make an immediate commitment not to use cluster munitions and join the treaty to ban them.”