KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview published Sunday that Russia has a “sufficient stockpile” of cluster munitions, and warned that Russia “reserves the right to take reciprocal action” if Ukraine uses the controversial weapons.
In his first comments on the delivery of cluster munitions to Ukraine from the U.S., Putin said that Russia has not used cluster bombs in its war in Ukraine so far. The use of cluster bombs by both Russia and Ukraine has been widely documented, including by The Associated Press and international humanitarian organizations, and cluster rounds have been found in the aftermath of Russian strikes.
“Until now, we have not done this, we have not used it, and we have not had such a need,” he said,
Rossiya TV reporter Pavel Zarubin published excerpts of the interview to his Telegram channel Sunday ahead of a scheduled broadcast Sunday night.
The Pentagon said Thursday that cluster munitions provided by the United States had arrived in Ukraine.
The munitions, which are bombs that open in the air and release scores of smaller bomblets, are seen by the U.S. as a way to get Kyiv critically needed ammunition to help bolster its offensive and push through Russian front lines. U.S. leaders debated the thorny issue for months, before President Joe Biden made the final decision last week.
Cluster bombs have long been criticized by humanitarian groups, and some U.S. allies, because those used in previous conflicts have had a high “dud rate,” meaning that they often leave behind unexploded bomblets that can harm civilians long after a battle has ended.
Proponents argue that Russia has already been using cluster munitions in Ukraine and that the weapons the U.S. is providing have been improved to leave behind far fewer unexploded rounds. Ukraine has promised to use them only away from densely populated areas.
On the ground, the Ukrainian military said in a regular update Sunday morning that over the previous 24 hours Russia had launched two Iranian-made Shahed exploding drones, two cruise missiles and two anti-aircraft guided missiles, in addition to 40 airstrikes and 46 attacks from multiple rocket launchers.
The Ukrainian General Staff wrote that Russia continues to concentrate on offensive operations in Ukraine’s industrial east. Donetsk regional Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko said Sunday that two residents of the region were killed on Saturday, and one other person was wounded.
Elsewhere in the country, two boys, aged eight and 10, were wounded when an explosive device left by Russian forces detonated in the southern region of Kherson on Sunday, according to the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office.
Regional Gov. Oleksandr Prokudin said that Russia had launched 69 shelling attacks against Kherson region. A 59-year-old man died on Saturday when attempting to disarm a round in the regional capital, also called Kherson.
Yurii Malashko, governor of the neighboring, partly occupied, Zaporizhzhia region, said Russia had attacked 13 populated areas in the region, wounding seven people in the town of Stepnohirsk.
Moscow-installed authorities in Russian-occupied Crimea on Sunday reported “a massive and prolonged” drone attack overnight targeting Sevastopol, the peninsula’s largest port, which hosts Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. According to Moscow-installed Sevastopol governor Mikhail Razvozhaev, air defense shot down all of the drones and there was no damage.
Vyacheslav Gladkov, the governor of Russia’s Belgorod region, said that a woman was killed Sunday by shelling in the town of Shebekino near the border with Ukraine.
Morton reported from London. AP Journalist Felipe Dana contributed to this report.