Ukrainian forces may have used cluster bombs in recent attacks, although this weapon has so far been controversial.
Ukrainian marines have advanced for the second time in two weeks on the southeastern front line, towards the important port city of Mariupol. At the same time, the recent recapture of the strategic village of Urozhaine by Ukrainian forces seems to have been aided in part by the use of cluster bombs, a controversial weapon aided by the United States to Kiev.
Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar confirmed the recapture of the village of Urozhaine by the military on the morning of August 16, when a group of CNN reporters approached the outskirts of the village with 35 marines. Heavy artillery fire blocked the entrance to the village as Russian forces shelled Ukrainian troops holding the area.
Drone footage of the fierce battle for the village of Urozhaine has emerged, in which dozens of Russian soldiers can be seen retreating to the south of the village. Two weapons experts who watched videos of the incident said they appeared to have been hit while retreating, sometimes with what appeared to be cluster bombs.
“A lot of people died, especially when they started to flee,” Dykyi, the nickname of a shock company commander, said of the Russian retreat.
“A lot of them died there,” Dykyi said, adding mortars and tanks had been used on the way to Russia’s withdrawal.
Drone videos also show a Ukrainian tank attacking Russian positions, opening fire, and dragging behind a cable with explosives to clear mines.
U.S. officials say the delivery of cluster munitions to Ukraine’s military comes after a heated debate over the ethics of using the weapon during the administration of President Joe Biden. Cluster munitions not only cause massive damage to ground forces but also disperse small unexploded bombs that pose a danger to civilians for decades to come.
More than 100 countries have banned the use of cluster munitions through a treaty, although Ukraine, Russia, and the United States are not signatories to this international treaty. The Ukrainian military has confirmed US weapons are being used on the front lines but declined to provide details.
Recapturing the village of Urozhaine brings Ukraine closer to its goal of controlling the village of Staromlynivka a few kilometers to the south, which is seen as a Russian stronghold in the region.
The attempt to retake the village of Urozhaine is also a signal that Ukraine is pushing a counterattack south to the Sea of Azov in order to cut Russia’s forces in half. Urozhaine is just over 90km from the Sea of Azov.
The recapture of Urozhaine showed the progress of the Ukrainian army in the intense counter-offensive campaign when each advance was measured in meters, not kilometers. Ukraine’s military faced stronger-than-expected resistance and struggled against fortified Russian defenses, including a vast network of trenches and tens of thousands of square feet of minefields.
Earlier this week, Kiev dismissed recent criticism that the Ukrainian army was not advancing fast enough. Ukraine claims it is focused on eroding Russia’s combat capabilities and disrupting Moscow’s supply lines.
To assist Ukraine in breaking through Russia’s solid defenses, the US decided to send cluster bombs to Kiev. According to the US, large cluster bombs dispersed into smaller ones can help Ukraine penetrate Russia’s defenses more effectively in the context that Kiev faces a serious shortage of artillery shells.
Ukrainian soldiers said the advantages of cluster bombs are high attack radius, and the ability to clear the way effectively. In addition, due to the large-scale dispersion of cluster bombs, this type of weapon does not need to hit the target precisely, but even if it misses a bit, the cluster bomb is still effective.
Ukrainian commanders say that, by their very nature, cluster bombs cannot change the balance of forces on the battlefield in favor of Ukraine. However, this weapon allows Ukraine to attack Russian positions that Kiev has difficulty accessing.