File photo of 155mm ammunition U.S. Army Photo/2nd Lt. Gabriel Jenko/Handout via REUTERS

By Jonathan Landay

WASHINGTON, March 6 (Reuters) – Ukraine has expanded a controversial cluster bomb request from the United States to include a weapon it wants to adapt to drop the anti-armour explosives it contains on Russian forces from drones , according to two US lawmakers.

Kiev has urged members of Congress to pressure the White House to approve the arms delivery, but it is by no means certain that President Joe Biden’s government will give the go-ahead.

Cluster munitions, banned by more than 120 countries, typically release large numbers of smaller bombs that can kill indiscriminately over a wide area, threatening civilian populations.

Ukraine is seeking the MK-20, an air-dropped cluster bomb, to deliver its individual explosives from drones, House Armed Services Committee members Jason Crow and Adam Smith said.

The request is in addition to the 155mm fragmentation artillery shells that Ukraine has already requested, they said.

Ukraine hopes that cluster munitions will give it an edge in the bitter fight against Russian forces in eastern Ukraine.

The Ukrainian government has publicly stated that it wants American cluster munitions. The request for MK-20 -also known as CBU-100- had not previously been communicated.

The Ukrainian embassy referred Reuters to the Defense Ministry in Kyiv, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A National Security Council spokeswoman said while Ukraine and the White House are “coordinating closely” on military assistance, it has “no new capabilities to announce.”


Since the start of the conflict, Ukraine has requested and received weapons that the United States initially refused to hand over, such as HIMARS missile launchers, Patriot air defense batteries and Abrams tanks. But cluster munitions might be too risky a step for the government and some members of Congress.

Critics argue that when the bombs disperse they can maim and kill civilians and have a high failure rate, meaning unexploded ordnance poses a danger for years after a conflict ends.

A 2008 pact banning the production, use and stockpiling of cluster munitions has been adopted by 123 countries, including most of the 28 NATO members. The United States, Russia and Ukraine did not join.

Giving Ukrainians “a banned weapon would undermine their moral authority in a way that (Russian President Vladimir) Putin would exploit,” said Tom Malinowski, a former congressman who was the Department’s top human rights official. of state.

But there is some support in Congress. An aide said most Republicans “are pretty receptive” to Ukraine’s demands.

(Additional reporting by Mike Stone; Editing in Spanish by Javier López de Lérida)

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