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U.S. is considering sending cluster munitions to Ukraine, officials say

Some human rights groups oppose the use of cluster munitions because unexploded bomblets can explode after battle and injure or kill civilians.
Ukraine Russia War Bakhmut
Ukrainian servicemen fire rockets toward Russian positions near Bakhmut on June 13.Anatolii Stepanov / AFP - Getty Images

The U.S. is leaning toward providing cluster munitions to Ukraine, and the announcement could come as early next month, two senior U.S. officials said.

A third U.S. official said the U.S. is considering providing dual purpose improved conventional munitions, or DPICMs, to Ukraine but declined to provide any timeline for an announcement.

DPICMs are surface-to-surface warheads that explode and disperse multiple small munitions or bombs over wide areas — bringing more widespread destruction than single rounds. The rounds can be shape charges that penetrate armored vehicles, or they can shatter or fragment to be more dangerous and deadly for personnel.

Some human rights groups oppose their use because of concerns that unexploded bomblets, or duds, could explode after battle, potentially injuring or killing innocent civilians.

Ukraine has been asking the U.S. for DPICMs since last year, but the idea has met resistance because of an international treaty that bans the transfer, use and stockpiling of the weapon, called the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

The U.S., Ukraine and Russia are not signatories to the treaty, but more than 100 countries are, including many U.S. allies.

The U.S. developed the cluster munitions during the Cold War and later stockpiled a large number of them, many now nearing the end of their shelf life. This week a bipartisan group of members of Congress sent a letter asking the Biden administration to unleash the “untapped, vast arsenal” to Ukraine.

DPICMs can be fired from artillery systems that the U.S. has already provided to Ukraine.

Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., a member of the House Intelligence Committee, sent a letter Thursday asking Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin for details, including DPICM dud rates and variants in the U.S. stockpile that could be sent to Ukraine.

“As you know, the United States has placed restrictions on the use of cluster munitions as a matter of both law and policy,” Crow wrote. “I believe that any change in policy requires public discourse, and more public information is required to achieve that.”