Boris Johnson says Joe Biden is 'right' to send cluster munitions to Ukraine

On the 500th day of the Ukraine war, the US and UK are divided over whether it's right to send cluster bombs to the battlefield, ITV News' Tom Sheldrick reports

Boris Johnson has described Joe Biden's decision to send cluster munitions to Ukraine as "brave", while accepting that they are "terrible weapons".

The former prime minister said the US president is "right" to provide the bombs, which have a track record of causing civilian casualties and are banned in more than 120 countries.

His remarks appear in contrast to those of his successor, Rishi Sunak, who made it clear that Britain "discourages" the use of cluster munitions.

In a tweet this evening, Johnson said: "Joe Biden has taken a difficult but brave decision to supply cluster munitions to Ukraine. He is right.

"These are terrible weapons. But they have been used by Putin for over a year in his programme of indiscriminate slaughter of an entirely innocent people.

"The faster we help the Ukrainians to win, the more lives we will save all round. And never forget - it is the Ukrainians who will use these weapons on their own soil, and to protect themselves."

The UK is one of the 123 signatories of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, who have agreed not to use, produce, transfer or stockpile the weapons and to clear them after they’ve been used.

The United States, Russia and Ukraine are among those who have not signed on to the convention.

Cluster bombs open in the air and release a wave of smaller bomblets to hit multiple targets at once. The munitions have a track record for causing many civilian casualties, and hidden unexploded ordnance causes traumas years- even decades- down the track, long after a conflict has ended.

A suspected Russian cluster bomb in Ukraine. Credit: AP

Cluster bombs have been kill and maim civilians in conflicts around the world, including Syria, Libya and Ukraine, often leaving victims who survive their explosion with life-changing injuries. The Pentagon says the munitions it will provide to Ukraine have a reduced “dud rate.” That means fewer of the unexploded rounds that can result in unintended civilian deaths. But critics say the collateral damage is unacceptable.

President Biden, who will be meeting Mr Sunak on Monday in London ahead of a Nato summit, has said he stands by his "difficult decision", telling CNN it is a temporary measure to help Kyiv halt Russian tanks.

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