From the outset of its attack against Ukraine that began in late February 2022, Russia’s armed forces have used cluster munitions extensively against Ukrainian military objectives, as well as, in violation of international law, against the civilian population and civilian objects. The exact number of cluster munition attacks is unknown, but hundreds have been documented or reported, adding significantly to the existing contamination.Human Rights Watch (HRW), “Intense and Lasting Harm: Cluster Munition Attacks in Ukraine”, Report, 11 May 2022, at: https://bit.ly/3wJ6Or4; Amnesty International, “Everything is on fire”: One month since the Russian invasion of Ukraine”, 24 March 2022, at: https://bit.ly/3lyZrgK; Article 36, “Article 36 condemns Russia’s use of cluster munitions in Ukraine”, 16 March 2022, at: https://bit.ly/3PymSES; and Cluster Munition Coalition, Cluster Munition Monitor 2022, Report, 25 August 2022, at: https://bit.ly/3miGxyT. Wherever possible, the State Emergency Services of Ukraine (SESU) have cleared the contamination resulting from the use of explosive ordnance, including cluster munition remnants (CMR), immediately after use.“See how Kharkiv’s bomb squad neutralizes cluster bombs in Ukraine”, National Public Radio (NPR), 24 April 2022, at: https://n.pr/3NqnQ47; and Ukraine’s State Emergency Service Facebook page, 8 May 2022, at: https://bit.ly/3G04DDJ. Prior to July 2023, Ukrainian forces had also used cluster munitions in their military operations against Russian forces on Ukrainian territory at least three times. In 7 July 2023, however, the United States (US) Department of Defense supplied Ukraine with dual-purpose improved conventional munitions (DPICM), a type of cluster munition,U.S. Department of Defense press release, “Biden Administration Announces Additional Security Assistance for Ukraine”, 7 July 2023, at: https://bit.ly/3O5Glwz. and Ukraine began using the US cluster munitions against Russian forces the same month, likely adding to existing CMR contamination.“Cluster bombs: Ukraine using munitions 'effectively', says US”, BBC, 21 July 2023, at: https://bbc.in/3Ot3eLO.
The scale of the new CMR contamination in Ukraine is estimated to be large, but there is no credible estimate yet. Sources have suggested that the threat from unexploded submunitions might require a decade or more of concerted action.
In November 2021, the Ukrainian Cabinet of Ministers issued a long-awaited resolution on the establishment of the national mine action authority (NMAA). The NMAA was said to have assumed its full responsibilities in 2022. The two National Mine Action Centres under the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Ministry of Interior (MoI) were accredited and became fully operational in 2022. Additional international operators started operations in Ukraine and were undergoing accreditation in 2022 including the DanChurchAid (DCA), Humanity and Inclusion (HI), Mines Advisory Group (MAG), and Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) who has received its accreditation in 2023.
- Ukraine should immediately halt all use of cluster munitions and accede to the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) as a matter of priority.
- As soon as conditions allow, Ukraine should undertake a baseline survey to understand the extent and nature of its CMR contamination in all areas to which it has effective access.
- Ukraine should ensure that survey, clearance, and contamination data related to CMR are disaggregated from data relating to other explosive remnants of war (ERW) and mines.
- Given the increasing number of mine action stakeholders, Ukraine should improve the coordination among mine action stakeholders to ensure an effective and sustainable response.
- Ukraine should facilitate and expedite its processes for permission to operators to use explosives in clearance and destruction operations as well as subsequent accreditation to conduct explosive ordnance disposal (EOD).