+   *    +     +     
About Us 
The Issues 
Our Research Products 
Order Publications 
Press Room 
Resources for Monitor Researchers 
Landmine Monitor
Table of Contents
Country Reports
Download PDF of country response to Human Rights Watch letter.


The Russian Federation has not signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions. In March 2009, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs stated that Russia “cannot agree to the classifications and restrictions of cluster munitions outlined in [the Convention on Cluster Munitions] because they were established with disregard for the input from the Russian Federation. Therefore, we are not considering the ratification.”[1] Russia did not choose to participate in the Oslo Process, although dozens of nations that have not yet signed the convention did so either as full participants or as observers.[2]

Russia has used cluster munitions, most recently in Georgia in August 2008, and likely possesses significant stockpiles. Russia is a major producer and exporter of cluster munitions, as was the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union used cluster munitions in 1943 against German forces and from 1979–1989 in Afghanistan. Russia used cluster munitions in Chechnya from 1994–1996 and in 1999, and again in 2008 in Georgia.

Russia is party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) and ratified Protocol V on Explosive Remnants of War on 21 July 2008.

Cluster Munition Ban Policy

Russia has been among the states most opposed to pursuing any work internationally on cluster munitions, even in the CCW. In 2005, as other states began to look seriously at how to deal with the humanitarian problems caused by cluster munitions, Russia argued that the problems associated with cluster munition use are “mythical,” and asserted that submunitions can be accurately targeted to minimize civilian damage.[3] Russia stated, “As for…cluster munitions use, the Russian armed force are guided in their activities by the principles of legality, distinction, proportionality, precautions, environmental protection and military necessity.”[4]

In November 2006, during the Third Review Conference of the CCW, 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.”[5] It rejected a proposal for a mandate to negotiate in the CCW a legally-binding instrument “that addresses the humanitarian concerns posed by cluster munitions.”[6] Given the unwillingness of some CCW States Parties to address cluster munitions, at the conclusion of the Review Conference Norway announced that it would start an independent process outside the CCW to negotiate a cluster munition treaty prohibiting cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians, and invited other governments to join.

In November 2007—after another year of discussions on cluster munitions in the CCW, and after a well-developed draft treaty text had been produced in the Oslo Process—Russia continued to oppose a mandate to negotiate a legally-binding instrument on cluster munitions in the CCW. Russia maintained it would only commit to negotiate a “proposal” as opposed to a legally-binding “protocol.”[7] Russia stated it had “lingering doubts about the specific ‘product’ of future work” and that “the practical basis for starting the negotiations is not very well developed.” Russia outlined its position: first; it would only support proposals “that will not lead to a reduction of its defence capabilities in connection with the use of cluster munitions;” second, the implementation of proposals on cluster munitions “must not have any economic or financial implications;” and third, proposals should be based on developing measures to ensure “the appropriate use of cluster munitions…and not towards technical restrictions on cluster munitions.” Russia stated any technical restrictions on cluster munitions must be non-binding and accompanied by a considerable transition period.[8] In the end, CCW States Parties agreed only to negotiate “a proposal” on cluster munitions.

In November 2008—after seven weeks of CCW negotiations, after 107 nations had formally adopted the Convention on Cluster Munitions comprehensively banning the weapon in May, and after Russia used cluster munitions against Georgia in August—Russia still maintained that it was “premature to talk about a protocol” on cluster munitions, and referred back to the mandate to negotiate a “proposal.”[9] Although the negotiations were scheduled to conclude, CCW States Parties could not reach agreement, and decided to extend the work into 2009.

At the end of the CCW session in November 2008, Russia stated, “We have done considerable and, we believe, positive work on issues related to cluster munitions (CM). We are united in that CMs pose a serious humanitarian danger. Their appropriate use and technical improvement will help to reduce humanitarian risks related to this type of weapons…. We believe that the very attempts to apply the standards and arrangements agreed in other international formats [the Oslo Process] to our Convention [the CCW] did not allow us to reach the compromises suitable to all…. It can be stated today there are opposing approaches to solving problems related to cluster weapons. This will objectively prevent us from bringing the positions of states closer together…. Intensive work is ahead of us…. On our part, we would like to assure all participants of the Meeting of the Russian Delegation’s readiness to most active and constructive cooperation.”[10]

In a press release on 3 December 2008, the day the Convention on Cluster Munitions opened for signature in Oslo, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that cluster munitions are “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 cannot stop using [cluster munitions]. We base our attitude to cluster munitions on a balance of humanitarian and defense interests. We are against unjustified restrictions and bans on cluster munitions.”[11]

The ministry’s press release also noted that “Russia admits that the use of cluster munitions in the course of armed conflicts in recent years has had serious negative consequences. Seeking to make our contribution to their solution, we participate in negotiations in Geneva on this subject under the Inhumane Weapons Convention [CCW].” Russia stated that it considered the CCW as the most appropriate forum for dealing with cluster munitions as it involves the major users and producers, adding that “if the Geneva negotiation process results in agreements on cluster munitions, we will be prepared to undertake commitments that they would involve.”[12]


Both Russia and Georgia used cluster munitions during their conflict in August 2008.[13] 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.[14]

Based on its on-the-ground investigations, Human Rights Watch concluded, “Russia, which deployed the weapons in circumstances in which they were incapable of distinguishing between civilian and military objects, violated international humanitarian law with its use of cluster munitions. Its attacks in or near villages, towns and one city were inherently indiscriminate and thus unlawful.”[15]

Russia has denied using cluster munitions in Georgia since the first reports about cluster munition use were published by Human Rights Watch. In a daily news briefing on 15 August 2008, Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, deputy head of the General Staff, said, “We did not use cluster bombs, and what’s more there was absolutely no necessity to do so.”[16] The Ministry of Defense said it did not use cluster munitions “in the area of the Georgian-Ossetian conflict.”[17] In a 30 January 2009 letter to Human Rights Watch, a Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs official wrote, “Despite Georgian aggression in South Ossetia, the Russian Federation did not employ the use of cassette [cluster] bombs or antipersonnel landmines.”[18]

Russia used cluster munitions extensively in Chechnya between 1994 and 1996 and again in 1999. Russian forces made use of multiple types of cluster munitions, including air-dropped bombs, tactical missiles, and multiple rockets systems, and directed many of its cluster munition attacks at civilian areas.[19] The attacks led to at least 636 casualties, including 301 deaths, according to Handicap International.[20] The Soviet Union used cluster munitions in Afghanistan during the conflict from 1979 to 1989.[21]

Production and Transfer

Russia is a major producer and exporter of cluster munitions, as was the Soviet Union. 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.”[22]

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).[23]

Cluster munitions of Russian/Soviet origin are reported to be in the stockpiles of the following 33 states: Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria,[24] Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic,[25] Egypt, Hungary,[26] Georgia,[27] Guinea,[28] Guinea-Bissau, India,[29] Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, North Korea, Kuwait,[30] Libya, Moldova, Mongolia, Peru,[31] Poland,[32] Romania, Slovakia, Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and Yemen.[33]


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.”[34] It is thought that Russia possesses a significant stockpile of cluster munitions which could contain hundreds of millions of submunitions. The following chart is based on a wide variety of publicly available materials.[35]

A number of international reference sources note that at least two Russian/Soviet ballistic missile systems are equipped with submunition payloads, but confirmed details are not publicly available.[36]



Carrier Name

Number of Submunitions

Submunition Type
















Mix of:

PTAB 2.5



PROSAB bomblet



ZAB 2.5 Incendiary

RBK 250-275



RBK 250-275


AO-2.5-2 APAM

RBK 250-275


AO-1SCh bomblet

RBK 250-275








AO-2.5-2 APAM



PTAB 2.5






ShOAB-0.5 bomblet



BetAB bomblets



ZAB 2.5 Incendiary









Grad (9M218)




Grad (9M217)




Uragan (9M27K)




Smerch (9M55K)




Smerch (9M55K1)




Smerch (9M55K5)



[1] Letter from Sergey Ryabkov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, 20 March 2009. Translation by Human Rights Watch.

[2] The Oslo Process was an open diplomatic process that was self-selecting. Russia attended one of the Oslo Process regional conferences, in Brussels in October 2007, as an observer and did not intervene.

[3] Presentation of the Russian Federation, “Cluster Weapons: Real or Mythical Threat,” Eleventh Session of the CCW Group of Governmental Experts (GGE), Geneva, 2–12 August 2005, p. 3.

[4] Statement of the Russian Federation, “Applicability of Rules of the International Humanitarian Law to the Explosive Remnants of War,” Eleventh Session of the CCW GGE, Geneva, 2 August 2005.

[5] Statement by Anatoly I. Antonov, Director, Department for Security Affairs and Disarmament, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Third Review Conference of the States Parties to the CCW, Geneva, 7 November 2006.

[6] Proposal for a Mandate to Negotiate a Legally-Binding Instrument that Addresses the Humanitarian Concerns Posed by Cluster Munitions, Third Review Conference of the States Parties to the CCW, CCW/CONF.III/WP.1, Geneva, 25 October 2006.

[7] Statement of the Russian Federation, 2007 Meeting of the States Parties to the CCW, Geneva, 13 November 2007. Notes by WILPF.

[8] Prospects for the work of the Group of Governmental Experts on the problem of cluster munitions, submitted by the Russian Federation, 2007 Meeting of the States Parties to the CCW, CCW/MSP/2007/WP.2, Geneva, 7 December 2007.

[9] Statement of the Russian Federation, Fifth 2008 Session of the CCW GGE on Cluster Munitions, Geneva, 3 November 2008. Notes by Landmine Action.

[10] Statement by Amb. Anatoly I. Antonov, 2008 Meeting of the States Parties to the CCW, Geneva, 13 November 2008.

[11] “Russia explains refusal to join cluster bombs convention,” Interfax: Russia & CIS Military Newswire, 8 December 2008.

[12] Ibid.

[13] For more details on use of cluster munitions during this conflict, see Human Rights Watch, “A Dying Practice: Use of Cluster Munitions by Russia and Georgia in August 2008,” April 2009, www.hrw.org.

[14] Ibid, pp. 2, 40. Human Rights Watch identified Russian cluster munition attacks on or near Akhaldaba, Dzlevijvari, Gori, Pkhvenisi, Ruisi, Variani, and Varianis Meurneoba. Additionally, in early 2009 Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) deminers found evidence of Russian 9N210 submunitions in two additional villages: Kvemo Khviti and Zemo Nikozi. Emails from Jonathon Guthrie, Program Manager, NPA, 10 March and 27 March 2009. An investigation by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs into the death of a Dutch cameraperson in Gori concluded that he was killed by a Russian submunition (type unknown) from an Iskander SS-26 surface-to-surface missile.

[15] Human Rights Watch, “A Dying Practice: Use of Cluster Munitions by Russia and Georgia in August 2008,” April 2009, www.hrw.org.

[16] “Russia Denies Use of Cluster Bombs in Georgia,” RIA Novosti, 15 August 2008, en.rian.ru.

[17] The ministry did not explain what is included in the Georgian-South Ossetian conflict zone and whether it includes areas of Georgian territory beyond South Ossetia. Ministry of Defense, “Russia Did Not Use Cluster Bombs in the Zone of the Georgian-South Ossetian Conflict Zone,” Press release, 15 August 2008, www.mil.ru.

[18] Letter from Andrei Kelin, Director, Fourth Department for CIS Countries, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 30 January 2009.

[19] Mennonite Central Committee, “Clusters of Death: Global Report on Cluster Bomb Production and Use,” 2000, chapter 3, mcc.org. The chapter cites an email attachment, “Summary of Incidents in Chechnya,” from HALO Trust to Virgil Wiebe, Landmine Monitor Researcher, 10 May 2000. The attack on the Grozny market on 21 October 1999, probably the most high-profile one in Chechnya, caused more than 100 deaths according to HALO Trust, a UK-based demining organization. See also Human Rights Center Memorial, “Counterterrorist Operation: Starye Atagi, September 1999–May 2002,” 2002, www.memo.ru; and O. Orlov and A. Cherkasov, “Russia–Chechnya: A Chain of Mistakes and Crimes,” Human Rights Center Memorial, www.memo.ru.

[20] Handicap International, “Circle of Impact: The Fatal Footprint of Cluster Munitions on People and Communities,” 2007, p. 85. All but 24 of the 636 documented casualties came during strikes, not afterwards. Not all post-conflict casualties, however, may have been reported.

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

[22] Letter from Sergey Ryabkov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, 20 March 2009.

[23] The main sources for information on Russian companies that produce cluster munitions are Robert Hewson, ed., Jane’s Air–Launched Weapons, Issue 44 (Surrey, UK: Jane’s Information Group Limited, 2004) and Leland S. Ness and Anthony G. Williams, eds., Jane’s Ammunition Handbook 2007–2008 (Surrey, UK: Jane’s Information Group Limited, 2007). State Research and Production Enterprise details the numerous types of rockets it produced on its corporate website: www.splav.org.

[24] The Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs notes, “There are limited amounts of cluster munitions of the type RBK-250 and RBK-500 which are currently held by the Bulgarian Armed Forces.” Email from Lachezara Stoeva, Chief Expert, Arms Control and International Security Department, NATO and International Security Directorate, Bulgaria Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 17 May 2008.

[25] The Ministry of Defence of the Czech Republic currently holds, in storage, 67 containers and 5,377 pieces of RBK-500 and KMGU BKF PTAB submunitions. Letter from Jan Michal, Director of the UN Department, Czech Republic Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 17 March 2009.

[26] In 2006, officials acknowledged Hungary possessed Soviet-era air-dropped cluster bombs and said that their status was under review. Human Rights Watch interviews with members of Hungary’s delegation to the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Sessions of the CCW GGE, Geneva, 19 June 2006 and 31 August 2006.

[27] The Georgian Ministry of Defense reports having RBK-500 cluster munitions and BKF blocks of submunitions that are carried in KMGU dispensers, but it told Human Rights Watch that their shelf-lives have expired and they are slated for destruction. Response of Georgian Ministry of Defense to Human Rights Watch Questions, 12 February 2009.

[28] Moldova reported the transfer to Guinea in 2000 of 860 9M27K rockets, each containing 30 submunitions, for Guinea’s 220mm Uragan multiple launch rocket system. Republic of Moldova, UN Register of Conventional Arms, Submission for Calendar Year 2000, 30 May 2001.

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

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

[31] In May 2007 it was disclosed that the Peruvian Air Force possesses stockpiles of RBK-500 bombs. Ángel Páez, “Peru se suma a iniciativa mundial para prohibir y destruir las ‘bombas de racimo’” (“Peru joins global initiative to ban and destroy the ‘cluster bombs’”), La República on line, 26 May 2007. Human Rights Watch was shown photographs of these cluster munitions by a member of the national media in May 2007. See also, Ángel Páez, “Se eliminaran las bombas de racimo” (“Cluster bombs will be eliminated”), La República on line, 27 May 2007.

[32] 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, 10 March 2009.

[33] Unless otherwise footnoted, the source for this information is Jane’s Information Group.

[34] Letter from Sergey Ryabkov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, 20 March 2009.

[35] This chart comes from a tabulation of information in Robert Hewson, ed., Jane’s Air–Launched Weapons, Issue 44 (Surrey, UK: Jane’s Information Group Limited, 2004), pp. 414–415, 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, 722–723; US Defense Intelligence Agency, “Improved Conventional Munitions and Selected Controlled-Fragmentation Munitions (Current and Projected),” partially declassified and made available to Human Rights Watch 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, 515–516. This research has been supplemented by information found on the Splav State Research and Production Enterprise corporate website: www.splav.org.

[36] The R-65/70 Luna M (FROG-7) and Iskander (SS-26). Duncan Lennox, Jane’s Strategic Weapons Systems, 46 (Surrey, UK: Jane’s Information Group Limited, January 2007), pp. 123–124; 139–141.