Last Updated: 25 August 2014

Cluster Munition Ban Policy


The Russian Federation has not acceded to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

Russia has rarely commented on why it has not joined the ban convention. In its last statement related to the matter in November 2011, Russia argued that cluster munitions play “a very substantive role” and “cannot be abandoned yet” due to their “defensive role.” In Russia’s view, “cluster munitions still preserve their status of non-prohibited weapon.”[1]

Since the Convention on Cluster Munitions was adopted in 2008, Russia has conceded on several occasions that cluster munitions cause serious humanitarian harm, but it has still argued that technical improvements to the weapon, coupled with their “appropriate application,” can reduce the humanitarian risks associated with their use.[2]

Russia is party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) and, after opposing CCW discussions on cluster munitions for years, changed its position in 2011 to support an effort led by the United States (US) to conclude a new CCW protocol on cluster munitions.[3] The initiative failed in November 2011, effectively ending the CCW’s deliberations on cluster munitions and leaving the Convention on Cluster Munitions as the sole multilateral instrument specifically dedicated to the weapons.

Russia did not participate in the Oslo Process that produced the Convention on Cluster Munitions.[4] When the convention was opened for signature in 2008, Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that cluster munitions were “a legitimate type of weapon that is not banned by international humanitarian law and plays a significant role in the defense interests of Russia…We are against unjustified restrictions and bans on cluster munitions.”[5]

Since 2008, Russia has shown some interest in the Convention on Cluster Munitions. It participated as an observer in the convention’s Meetings of States Parties in 2010 and 2011, but did not attend those held in 2012 or 2013. Russia attended intersessional meetings of the convention in Geneva in 2012, but not those held in April 2013 or 2014. Russia did not make any statements at these meetings.

In its role as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, Russia endorsed a resolution on 27 May 2014 that expressed concern at the “indiscriminate” use of cluster munitions in South Sudan.[6]

On 4 July 2013, Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs accused the government of Ukraine of using cluster munitions against civilians.[7] On 25 July 2014, a senior commander of the Russian General Staff expressed concern that Ukrainian forces were using cluster munitions in civilian areas.[8]

Russia is not party to the Mine Ban Treaty.


The Soviet Union used cluster munitions in 1943 against German Armed Forces during World War II and from 1979–1989 in Afghanistan.[9] Russian forces also used cluster munitions in Chechnya from 1994–1996 and again in 1999.[10]

Russia most recently used cluster munitions in the August 2008 conflict with Georgia. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), Russian cluster munition strikes on populated areas killed 12 civilians and injured 46 more. Clearance personnel have found Russian air-dropped AO-2.5 RTM and rocket-delivered 9N210 submunitions, delivered by RBK aerial bombs and Uragan ground rockets, respectively. Russia used cluster munitions in or near nine towns and villages in the Gori-Tskhinvali corridor south of the South Ossetian administrative border.[11] Russia has denied using cluster munitions in Georgia.[12]

The Netherlands has sought accountability and investigation into the death of Dutch journalist Stan Storimans, who was killed by a Russian cluster munition strike in Georgia in August 2008.[13] In July 2013, however, President Vladimir Putin stated that Russian authorities do not intend to conduct an investigation.[14]

Production and transfer

Russia, and historically the Soviet Union, is a major producer and exporter of cluster munitions. Additionally, a number of states inherited stocks of cluster munitions when the Soviet Union dissolved. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Our records on the production, usage, and export of cluster munitions…are confidential and will not be publicized.”[15]

According to international technical reference materials, the following Russian companies are associated with the production of cluster munitions: Bazalt State Research and Production Enterprise (air-dropped bombs), Mechanical Engineering Research Institute (120mm, 152mm, and 203mm artillery projectiles), and Splav State Research and Production Enterprise Rocket (122mm, 220mm, and 300mm rockets).[16]

Cluster munitions of Russian/Soviet origin have been reported in the stockpiles of at least 35 states, including 25 that are not yet States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions:[17] Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Republic of the Congo, Cuba, Egypt, Georgia,[18] Guinea, India,[19] Iran, Kazakhstan, North Korea, Kuwait,[20] Libya,[21] Mongolia, Poland,[22] Romania, Slovakia, Syria,[23] Turkmenistan, Ukraine,[24] Uzbekistan, and Yemen.[25] In addition, Russian cluster munitions have been identified in Sudan, although the government of Sudan has denied having a stockpile.[26] Of the 11 States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions that have stockpiled cluster munitions of Russian/Soviet origin, all except Guinea-Bissau and Iraq have formally declared the stocks, providing types and quantities: Bulgaria,[27] Côte d’Ivoire,[28] Croatia,[29] Czech Republic,[30] Hungary,[31] the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYR Macedonia),[32] Moldova,[33] Mozambique,[34] and Peru.[35]

RBK series bombs containing a variety of submunition types appear to account for the majority of cluster munitions used by the Syrian government, particularly RBK-250 PTAB-2.5M cluster bombs and RBK-250 AO-1SCh cluster bombs. The munitions appear to be old stock, manufactured at Soviet state munitions factories in the 1970s and early 1980s.[36] In October 2012, Russia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergey Lavrov, denied that “Russian-made” cluster bombs were being used in Syria, stating there was “no confirmation” of use and noting it was “difficult” to establish where the cluster munitions came from.[37]

The types of cluster munitions produced in the USSR or Russia that have been declared by States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions are detailed in the following table:

Types and quantities of Soviet/Russian cluster munitions in declared stockpiles[38]

Type of cluster munition

Cluster munition


States declaring stockpiles (quantity of cluster munitions)


RBK-250 PTAB-2.5M


Bulgaria (488), Croatia (9), Moldova (14), Hungary (17), Mozambique (193)

RBK-250 ZAB-2.5M


Bulgaria (60), Croatia (44)

RBK-250-275 AO-1 SCh


Bulgaria (238), Croatia (5), Moldova (24), Côte d’Ivoire (68), Mozambique (97), Peru (388)

RBK-500 AO2.5RT


Bulgaria (201), Moldova (16), Czech Republic (191)

RBK-500 ShOAB-0.5M


Bulgaria (36)

RBK-500 ZAB-2.5SM


Bulgaria (86)

RBK-500-255 PTAB-10.5


Moldova (8)

RBK-500-255 PTAB-2.5


Moldova (16)




Bulgaria (31,356), Croatia (17,376)



Bulgaria (19,108), FYR Macedonia




Moldova (834)




Bulgaria (8)




Moldova (473)


Russia has acknowledged possessing a “large stockpile” of cluster munitions “stored throughout the state,” and has said that the disposal of a wide range of obsolete cluster munitions types would be time-consuming and result in “a significant financial expenditure,” comparable to the US$2.2 billion that the US has estimated it will cost to destroy its stockpile.[39] At the Fourth CCW Review Conference in November 2011, Russia stated that the size of its cluster munitions stockpile is similar to that of the US, which has a reported 5.5 million cluster munitions.[40]

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “The quantity and types of cluster munitions stockpiled in the Russian Ministry of Defence are confidential and will not be publicized.”[41] The following chart is based on a wide variety of publicly available sources.

Cluster munitions stockpiled by the Russian Federation[42]



Carrier name

Number of submunitions

Submunition type



































RBK-250 ZAB-2.5



RBK-250 PTAB-2.5M



RBK 250-275 AO-2.5RT



RBK 250-275 AO-2.5-2RTM



RBK 250-275 AO-1SCh



RBK 250-275 PTAB 2.5M



RBK-500 AO-2.5RT



RBK-500 AO-2.5RTM



RBK-500 PTAB 2.5



RBK-500 PTAB 2.5M



RBK-500 SHOAB-0.5






RBK-500 ZAB 2.5



RBK-500 ZAB 2.5SM














Grad (9M218)





Grad (9M217)





Uragan (9M27K)


9N210 Dual-purpose



Smerch (9M55K)


9N235 fragmentation



Smerch (9M55K1)





Smerch (9M55K5)





9K52 Luna-M with 9N18K


9N22 Fragmentation


9M79 Tochka with 9N123K


9N24 Fragmentation


Note: FAE=fuel air explosive; HE/AT=high explosive antitank; SFW=sensor-fuzed weapon


[1] Statement of the Russian Federation, Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) Fourth Review Conference, Geneva, 24 November 2011. Notes by Human Rights Watch (HRW).

[2] Statement by Amb. Anatoly I. Antonov, Head of the Russian Delegation, CCW Meeting of the High Contracting Parties, Geneva, 25 November 2010. Unofficial translation by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Before 2010, Russia argued that the humanitarian problems associated with cluster munition use are “mythical” and asserted that submunitions can be accurately targeted to minimize civilian damage. Presentation of the Russian Federation, “Cluster Weapons: Real or Mythical Threat,” CCW Group of Governmental Experts on Cluster Munitions, Geneva, 2–12 August 2005, p. 3.

[3] At the CCW’s Third Review Conference in 2006, Russia stated, “We cannot accept the logic of restrictions or even bans on ammunition artificially and groundlessly declared as the most ‘dangerous weapons.’ This path would lead us to a stalemate. It could only result in a split and weaken the [CCW] and its Protocols.” Statement by Anatoly I. Antonov, Director, Department for Security Affairs and Disarmament, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, CCW Third Review Conference, Geneva, 7 November 2006.

[4] Russia attended a regional meeting held during the Oslo Process as an observer (in Brussels in October 2007). For details on Russia’s policy and practice regarding cluster munitions through 2009, see Human Rights Watch and Landmine Action, Banning Cluster Munitions: Government Policy and Practice (Ottawa: Mines Action Canada, May 2009), pp. 230–235.

[5] “Russia explains refusal to join cluster bombs convention,” Interfax: Russia & CIS Military Newswire, 8 December 2008. Similar language was used in a September 2009 letter to the CMC. See letter from Sergey Ryabkov, Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the CMC, 18 September 2009. Unofficial translation by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

[6] The resolution noted “with serious concern reports of the indiscriminate use of cluster munitions” and called for “all parties to refrain from similar such use in the future.” UN Security Council, “Security Council, Adopting Resolution 2155 (2014), Extends Mandate of Mission In South Sudan, Bolstering Its Strength to Quell Surging Violence,” SC11414, 27 May 2014.

[7] David McHugh, “Troops in Ukraine strike back at rebels; Putin pushes truce,” Boston Globe, 4 July 2014.

[9] Mennonite Central Committee, “Drop Today, Kill Tomorrow: Cluster Munitions as Inhumane and Indiscriminate Weapons,” June 1999, p. 5. Additionally, cluster munitions were also used by various forces in several conflicts that resulted from the breakup of the Soviet Union in Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh, and Tajikistan. The degree of involvement of Russian forces in the use of cluster munitions is not known but cannot be discounted.

[10] Mennonite Central Committee, “Clusters of Death: The Mennonite Central Committee Cluster Bomb Report,” July 2000, Chapter 3.

[12] Ibid; and see Human Rights Watch and Landmine Action, Banning Cluster Munitions: Government Policy and Practice (Ottawa: Mines Action Canada, May 2009), pp. 232–233.

[13] The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs provided Russian authorities with a report by an independent commission that investigated the incident and concluded that a Russian cluster munition strike killed Storimans.Verslag onderzoeksmissie Storimans” (“Storimans commission of inquiry report”), 24 October 2008.

[14] Jeroen Akkermans, “Het kan Rusland in feite geen barst schelen” (“Russia actually doesn’t give a damn”), RT Nieuws, 10 July 2013.

[15] Letter from Sergey Ryabkov, Ministry of Foreign Affairs to HRW, 20 March 2009.

[16] The primary sources for information on Russian companies that produce cluster munitions are Jane’s Air Launched Weapons and Jane’s Ammunition Handbook. Splav State Research and Production Enterprise Rocket details the numerous types of rockets it produced.

[17] Unless otherwise footnoted with supplementary information, the source is Jane’s Information Group.

[18] The Georgian Ministry of Defense reports having RBK-500 cluster munitions and BKF blocks of submunitions that are carried in KMG-U dispensers, but told HRW that their shelf-lives have expired and they are slated for destruction. Response to Monitor questionnaire by Georgian Ministry of Defense, 12 February 2009.

[19] In February 2006, India bought 28 launch units for the 300mm Smerch multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) fitted with dual purpose improved conventional munition (DPICM) and sensor-fuzed submunitions. “India, Russia sign $500mn [sic] rocket systems deal,” Indo-Asian News Service (New Delhi), 9 February 2006.

[20] In 1995, Kuwait was the first export customer for the Russian produced 300mm Smerch MLRS fitted with DPCIM and sensor-fuzed submunitions, buying 27 launch units. “Kuwait to get smart submunitions for Smerch MRL,” Jane’s Defence Weekly, 21 April 1995.

[21] HRW observed PTAB submunitions at the abandoned ammunitions storage depot at Mizdah during a visit in March 2012. See HRW, “Statement on Explosive Remnants of War in Libya and Implementation of CCW Protocol V,” 25 April 2012. In addition, deminers from the Mines Advisory Group encountered dud PTAB submunitions about 20 miles from Ajdjabiya. See CJ Chivers, “More Evidence of Cluster-Bomb Use Discovered in Libya,” At War blog, 13 February 2012.

[22] The Polish Air Force possesses “BKF expendable unit loader with anti-tank, incendiary and fragmentation bomblets, imported from USSR.” Letter from Adam Kobieracki, Director, Security Policy Department, Poland Ministry of Foreign Affairs to HRW, 10 March 2009.

[23] Remnants of numerous types of Russian/Soviet cluster munitions have been documented: RBK series air-dropped bombs containing AO-1SCh, PTAB-2.5M, and ShOAB-0.5 submunitions; AO-2.5RT and PTAB-2.5KO submunitions dispersed by KMGU dispensers; submunitions from 220mm 9M27K Uragan rockets; and, submunitions from 300mm 9M55K Smerch rockets. See HRW, “Technical Briefing Note: Use of Cluster Munitions in Syria,” 4 April 2014.

[24] Presentation of Ukraine, “Impact of the CCW Draft Protocol VI (current version)” on Ukraine’s Defense Capacity, CCW Group of Governmental Experts on Cluster Munitions, Geneva, 30 March 2011.

[25] The Houthi Administration in Saada Governorate  provided VICE News with still photographs showing remnants of Soviet-made RBK-250-275 AO-1SCh cluster bombs with its associated antipersonnel fragmentation submunitions. Multiple emails from Ben Anderson, Correspondent and Producer, VICE News, May 2014.

[26] For example, independent journalist Aris Roussinos filmed and photographed a failed RBK-500 AO-2.5RT cluster bomb near the village of Ongolo in South Kodorfan in April 2012. See HRW, “Sudan: Cluster Bomb Found in Conflict Zone,” 25 May 2012.

[27] Bulgaria, Convention on Cluster Munitions Article 7 Report, Form C, 30 April 2013. Bulgaria has declared RBK series bombs containing a variety of submunition types, including 488 RBK-250 bombs with 20,538 PTAB-2.5M, 238 RBK 250-275 bombs containing 35,700 AO-1SCh submunitions, one RBK-250-275 bomb with AO-2.5SCh submunitions, 60 RBK-250 bombs with 2,880 ZAB-2.5SM, 201 RBK-500 bombs with 12,060 AO-2.5RT, 86 RBK-500 bombs with 4,725 ZAB-2.5SM, 36 RBK-500 bombs with 20,340 SHOAB-0.5M, and three RBK-500 bombs with 1,695 SHOAB-0.5. It also declares eight warheads for 9N123K surface-to-surface missiles, and 400 9N24 submunitions.

[28] Statement of Côte d’Ivoire, Convention on Cluster Munitions Intersessional Meetings, Geneva, Switzerland, 17 April 2013. Côte d’Ivoire destroyed a total of 68 RBK-250-275 cluster bombs, each containing 150 AO-1SCh submunitions, between 28 January 2013 and 6 February 2013, with the assistance of the UN Mine Action Service.

[29] Croatia, Convention on Cluster Munitions Article 7 Report, Forms B and C, 2 May 2013 and Forms B and C, 10 April 2012. Croatia has declared a stockpile that includes RBK series bombs: nine RBK-250 bombs containing 415 PTAB-2.5M submunitions, five RBK-250-275 bombs containing 897 AO-1SCh submunitions, and 44 RBK-250 bombs containing 2,112 ZAB-2.5M submunitions.

[30] Czech Republic, Convention on Cluster Munitions Article 7 Report, Form B, 28 August 2012. Prior to its destruction, the Czech Republic’s stockpile included 191 RBK-500 cluster bombs (containing PTAB-2.5, AO-10, and AO-2.5RT submunitions) and 289 BFK cartridges or “blocks” containing AO-2.5RT and PTAB-2.5 submunitions for KMG-U dispensers.

[31] Hungary, Convention on Cluster Munitions Article 7 Report, Form B, 8 April 2013. Hungary has declared the destruction of 287 cluster bombs containing a total of 3,954 submunitions of three types: 247 BKF blocks containing 2,964 AO-2.5 submunitions, 23 BKF blocks containing 276 PTAB-2.5KO submunitions, and 17 RBK-250 cluster bombs containing 714 PTAB-2.5M submunitions.

[32] FYR Macedonia, Convention on Cluster Munitions Article 7 Report, Forms B and C, 2 May 2013. FYR Macedonia has declared a stockpile of 40,376 submunitions: 23,000 KB-2 submunitions and 17,376 AO-2.5RT submunitions contained in BKF cartridges.

[33] Moldova, Convention on Cluster Munitions Article 7 Report, Form B, 27 January 2011. Moldova reported destroying a stockpile of 1,385 cluster munitions with more than 27,000 submunitions in July 2010, including RBK series bombs containing PTAB, AO-2.5, and AO-1SCh submunitions. It also destroyed 473 9M27K rockets, each containing 30 9N210 self-destructing submunitions and 834 3-O-13 artillery projectiles, each containing eight O-16 submunitions.

[34] Mozambique, Convention on Cluster Munitions Article 7 Report, Form B, June 2012. Mozambique has declared a stockpile of 97 RBK-250 bombs containing 14,550 AO-1SCh submunitions and 193 RBK-250 bombs, each containing 8,106 PTAB submunitions.

[35] Peru declared a stockpile containing 388 RBK-250-275 AO-1SCh bombs containing 58,200 AO-1SCh submunitions. Peru, Convention on Cluster Munitions Article 7 Report, Form B, 1 August 2013.

[36] HRW press release, “Syria: Mounting Casualties from Cluster Munitions,” 16 March 2013.

[37] The New York Times correspondent C.J. Chivers noted: “The only charitable way to characterize that denial is to offer that perhaps Mr. Lavrov was engaging in misdirection by word play, as these weapons, by their date stamps, appeared to have been manufactured during the late Soviet period, and not during the period of the current, post-union Russian state.” The Gun blog, “Data Sharing: The ATK-EB Fuze,” 28 December 2012.

[38] All information in this table was extracted from Article 7 reports submitted so far by States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions and is available here. The RBK-250 bombs containing ZAB series incendiary submunitions are not covered by the Convention on Cluster Munitions because they contain incendiary submunitions.

[39] Statement of the Russian Federation, CCW Meeting of States Parties, Geneva, 12 November 2009. Notes by Landmine Action.

[40] Statement of the Russian Federation, CCW Fourth Review Conference, Geneva, 18 November 2011. Notes by HRW. An October 2004 report to the US Congress by the US Department of Defense disclosed a stockpile of 5.5 million cluster munitions containing about 728.5 million submunitions.

[41] Letter from Sergey Ryabkov, Ministry of Foreign Affairs to HRW, 20 March 2009.

[42] The data in this table comes from the following sources: Publishing House “Arms and Technologies;” and Information Centre of Defence Technologies and Safety, “The XXI Century Encyclopedia, ‘Russia’s Arms and Technologies,’ Volume 12: Ordnance and Munitions,” CD Version 2006; Robert Hewson, ed., Jane’s Air–Launched Weapons, Issue 44 (Surrey, UK: Jane’s Information Group Limited, 2004), pp. 414–415, and 422–432; Leland S. Ness and Anthony G. Williams, eds., Jane’s Ammunition Handbook 2007–2008 (Surrey, UK: Jane’s Information Group Limited, 2007), pp. 572, 597–598, 683, 703–706, 715–716, and 722–723; US Defense Intelligence Agency, “Improved Conventional Munitions and Selected Controlled-Fragmentation Munitions (Current and Projected),” partially declassified and made available to HRW under a Freedom of Information Act request; and “Russia’s Arms Catalog: Volume IV, Precision Guided Weapons and Ammunition, 1996–1997,” Military Parade: Moscow, 1997, pp. 138–139, 148–152, 373–392, 504, and 515–516. This research has been supplemented by information found on the Splav State Research and Production Enterprise corporate website.