All Sides in the Ukraine War Have Been Using Cluster Bombs Since 2014

All Sides in the Ukraine War Have Been Using Cluster Bombs Since 2014

All Sides in the Ukraine War Have Been Using Cluster Bombs Since 2014

The nihilism of the battlefield is reflected in hypocritical statements churned out by Kyiv and Moscow.


President Joe Biden’s decision to give cluster munitions to Ukraine triggered widespread concern and protests, given that use of the bombs—which break up into smaller-sized bomblets that indiscriminately blanket the target area and invariably result in the slaughter of civilians—is widely considered to be in a can. Even close allies like Canada and the UK bristled at the move to provide Kyiv with arms that are banned by over 100 nations.

Biden’s decision creates the false impression that cluster bombs are only now being introduced into the Ukraine conflict. In reality, all sides of this war have been using them since 2014.

Indeed, what’s been happening in eastern Ukraine is a war of attrition in which both Kyiv and Moscow spent the past nine years committing war crimes against the eastern Ukrainians caught in-between.

Russia’s invasion in February 2022 exponentially escalated this war, but it didn’t begin in 2022. It began in the spring of 2014, when a US-backed uprising overthrew Ukraine’s president Viktor Yanukovych. The overthrow triggered a counter-uprising in the eastern region of Donbas, where Yanukovych was popular, and which saw the unelected new government as illegitimate.

By the summer of 2014, the situation devolved into warfare between the new, US-backed Kyiv government on one side and Russia-backed rebels as well as Russian fighters on the other.

Within months, the Donbas—the industrial heartland of Ukraine and home to 3.6 million people—was transformed into a postapocalyptic wasteland framed by matching rivers of crocodile tears gushing out of Kyiv and Moscow.

Indiscriminate use of cluster munitions is only part of the horrors perpetrated upon the Donbas. Both sides unleashed Mad Max—style paramilitaries that kidnapped, raped, and murdered their way through the land. Both haphazardly mined fields to the point where the Donbas became one of the most land mine–infested areas in the world. Both deployed snipers who took out villagers unlucky enough to be stranded in the no man’s land between the combatants.

Human rights groups detailed widespread accounts of torture and summary executions. The rebel-held areas became lawless statelets subject to the whims of the local warlords, with “justice” meted out by kangaroo courts. Paramilitaries loyal to Kyiv began blocking food supplies to entire villages, which Amnesty International called a war crime. Both sides took to entrenching themselves among civilian infrastructure; in turn, both sides sent volleys of missiles into civilian areas under the bomb them all, let God sort them out mentality.

The nihilism of the battlefield was reflected in hypocritical statements churned out by Kyiv and Moscow. “It is savages who use cluster munitions against civilians,” thundered then–Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in 2015. As Human Rights Watch pointed out, Poroshenko’s laments mirrored that of the Kremlin disparaging the “barbaric nature” of Kyiv’s treatment of noncombatants.

Unsurprisingly, last week’s decision to give Kyiv cluster bombs resulted in the same cynical pantomimes that have defined this war. Supplying Ukraine with the weapons is a “tragic necessity,” opined former US ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, while simultaneously insisting that he “advocated for the US to sign the international agreement banning cluster munitions in the past.” McFaul also claimed that, unlike Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky does not “target civilians in Ukraine as a central component of his war strategy,” tweeting the single word “data” when asked to give proof.

The data furnished by reports from Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International shows Kyiv employing tactics that endanger civilians, with HRW’s report focusing on Kyiv’s use of cluster bombs.

And in February 2022, the Biden administration’s then–press secretary, Jen Psaki, stated that if reports of Russia’s use of cluster munitions were true, “it would potentially be a war crime.” It’s unclear how Psaki, who is now an MSNBC host, squares that assertion with the White House’s current position on providing such weapons to Kyiv.

It’s only natural that the most blatant hypocrisy came from Moscow and Kyiv. By giving Ukraine cluster munitions, Washington will be “fully responsible for those killed by explosions, including Russian and Ukrainian children,” asserted the Kremlin’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, whose government rained down terror slaughtering children with cluster bombs across Ukraine.

Last year, after one such Russian strike on the city of Kharkiv, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba recorded a video imploring NATO, “Help us…. If you don’t, I’m afraid you will have to share responsibility for the lives and the suffering of civilian Ukrainians, who die because of ruthless Russian pilots throwing bombs on them.”

This Saturday, after America decided to take a more active part in sharing responsibility for the lives and suffering of Ukrainian civilians, Kuleba “thanked the U.S. for another ground-breaking defense package, which includes much-needed ammunition.”

Irony, at least, remains quite alive in eastern Ukraine.

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