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According to two international humanitarian organizations, cluster munitions, a highly controversial weapon banned by many countries, were used by the Russian military against at least two civilian targets during its attack on Ukraine.
Seven people were killed and 11 injured in the bombings. Russia has also previously been known to use cluster munitions in warfare.
In a statement, Steve Goose, arms director of Human Rights Watch, said, “Russian forces should stop using cluster munitions and end unlawful attacks with weapons that indiscriminately kill and maim.”
Cluster munitions open in midair once fired and rain down hundreds of smaller “bomblets” over a large area the size of a few football fields.
The munitions are difficult to control and will strike people indiscriminately. International human rights groups say they shouldn’t be used anywhere near civilian populations, if at all.
The submunitions may also fail to detonate on impact, leaving unexploded bombs and posing more risk to the people nearby. As many as 40% may be left undetonated.
More than 100 countries signed a global treaty banning the use of cluster munitions in 2008, but neither Russia nor Ukraine agreed.
Cluster munitions hit hospital and preschool in Ukraine
Cluster munitions carried by a Russian ballistic missile struck outside a hospital in the city of Vuhledar, located in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, Human Rights Watch reported.
Human Rights Watch interviewed a doctor and a hospital official after the attack and examined photographs of the aftermath. The attack reportedly occurred around 10:30 a.m. local time.
The body count rose to four while ten were injured, wherein six of these are health care workers. Damages were also incurred to the hospital, an ambulance and other nearby vehicles.
Natalia Sosyura, the hospital’s chief doctor, told Human Rights Watch, “I was on the first floor of our two-story building. I heard a loud explosion outside. We ran into the hallway. Luckily, we didn’t have many patients.”
“We all fell to the floor.”
In a separate attack, Amnesty International reported that cluster munitions fell on a preschool in the northeastern Ukrainian city of Okhtyrka in Sumy Oblast on Friday. A child was wounded while three people, including another child, died.
Amnesty International said that Russian forces probably carried out the attack since they were conducting operations nearby and have used cluster munitions. The attack may constitute a war crime, the group said.
In a statement, Agnès Callamard, secretary-general of Amnesty International, expressed: “There is no possible justification for dropping cluster munitions in populated areas, let alone near a school.”
She further said, “This attack bears all the hallmarks of Russia’s use of this inherently indiscriminate and internationally-banned weapon, and shows flagrant disregard for civilian life.”
Drone footage showed four munitions striking the roof of the preschool and three more landing on the street, reported Amnesty International.