Live updates: Russia’s war in Ukraine

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Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov holds a press conference in Kyiv, Ukraine on February 5, 2023. Oleksii Chumachenko/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images/FILE

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov thanked the United States on Saturday for agreeing to provide Ukraine with cluster munitions, according to a tweet from the minister.

Reznikov said that Ukraine had been “officially requesting these types of munitions for a long time.”

“I would like to stress that in exercising our inalienable right to self-defense we will continue to strictly comply with all the international humanitarian conventions signed and ratified by Ukraine,” Reznikov added.

Reznikov insisted that Ukraine would abide by the principles which it has communicated to the US and its partners. Those include using the munitions for liberating internationally recognized Ukrainian territory, using them in non-urban areas, and keeping a record of where they are used for de-mining purposes later.

Request finally granted: Throughout the war, Kyiv’s Western allies have deliberated at length over whether they should send Ukraine the latest bit of military hardware it has requested. First it was artillery, then it was Leopard and Abrams tanks. The US is now supporting the training of Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16 fighter jets.

Each time, what initially appeared to be a bridge too far for Western nations eventually became seen as the right thing to do.

Cluster weapons followed that same trajectory. CNN first reported this week that US President Joe Biden’s administration was strongly considering approving the transfer of the controversial weapons to Ukraine, having long resisted Kyiv’s requests.

The US confirmed Friday that it would deliver Ukraine these weapons as part of a new military aid package.

What are cluster munitions? Cluster munitions, also called cluster bombs, are canisters that carry tens to hundreds of smaller bomblets, also known as submunitions. The canisters can be dropped from aircraft, launched from missiles or fired from artillery, naval guns or rocket launchers.

The canisters break open at a prescribed height, depending upon the area of the intended target, and the bomblets inside spread out over that area. They are fused by a timer to explode closer to or on the ground, spreading shrapnel that is designed to kill troops or take out armored vehicles such as tanks.

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