Ukrainian officials and lawmakers have in recent months urged the Biden administration and members of Congress to provide the Ukrainian military with cluster munition warheads, weapons that are banned by more than 100 countries but that Russia continues to use to devastating effect inside Ukraine.
The Ukrainian request for the cluster munitions, which was described to CNN by multiple US and Ukrainian officials, is one of the most controversial requests the Ukrainians have made to the US since the war began in February.
Senior Biden administration officials have been fielding this request for months and have not rejected it outright, CNN has learned, a detail that has not been previously reported.
Cluster munitions are imprecise by design, and scatter “bomblets” across large areas that can fail to explode on impact and can pose a long-term risk to anyone who encounters them, similar to landmines. They also create “nasty, bloody fragmentation” to anyone hit by them because of the dozens of submunitions that detonate at once across a large area, Mark Hiznay, a weapons expert and the associate arms director for Human Rights Watch, previously told CNN.
Top US officials have publicly stated that they plan to give the Ukrainians as much support as they need to give them an upper hand at the negotiating table with Russia, should it come to that. But western military equipment is not infinite, and as stockpiles of warheads dwindle, the Ukrainians have made plain to the US that it could use the cluster munitions currently gathering dust in storage.
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