Russia claims Ukraine killed civilians in Crimea with US-supplied missiles

The Ukrainian military has launched several US-made ATACMS long-range missiles armed with highly controversial cluster munitions on Crimea, resulting in numerous civilian casualties, Russia's Defense Ministry has claimed.

The strike was first reported by Sevastopol Governor Mikhail Razvozhaev on Sunday, who stated that the attack killed at least three people, including two children. Later on Sunday, Sevastopol Governor Mikhail Razvozhaev told journalists that the death toll had risen to five.

According to Russia’s Health Ministry, 124 people were injured, including 27 children.

The Russian Defense Ministry has confirmed the Ukrainian attack, which it said took place at around noon local time. Officials added that the shelling involved five ATACMS missiles, four of which were destroyed mid-air.

The remaining one, however, was damaged by air defenses, veered off course and detonated over the city of Sevastopol. As a result, the falling fragments of cluster munitions led to numerous civilian casualties, the statement read.

Сluster munitions – which scatter dozens of smaller bombs when denotated – are banned in more than 100 countries, including the UK, France, and Germany. This type of weapon is considered extremely dangerous to civilians, as the munitions typically spread over large areas and can remain unexploded in the ground for many years.

Neither the US, Ukraine, nor Russia has signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions. However, in the summer 2023 then-Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu stated that Moscow would not deploy this type of weapon against Kiev for humanitarian reasons. He warned, however, that Russia might potentially reverse this policy.

The US announced in July 2023 that it would provide Ukraine with cluster munitions, sparking outrage in Moscow. At the time, US President Joe Biden called the decision “very difficult” but justified, arguing that the deliveries were needed to fuel a Ukrainian counteroffensive that subsequently failed with heavy losses for Kiev.

Ukraine has previously attempted to target the peninsula with ATACMS missiles, with one of the most notable attacks taking place in late May. Russian Defense Minister Andrey Belousov said that a total of ten ATACMS aimed at the strategic Crimean Bridge were shot down, saving hundreds of lives.

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