The Russian Federation was not part of the Oslo Process launched in February 2007 to develop a new international treaty banning cluster munitions. In May 2008, 107 nations adopted the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which comprehensively bans the use, production, trade and stockpiling of the weapon. It will be open for signature in Oslo on December 3, 2008.
Russia has argued that submunitions are legitimate weapons that can be accurately targeted to minimize civilian damage.1 It has previously used cluster munitions in Chechnya. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) used cluster munitions extensively in Afghanistan. Cluster munitions were also used by various forces in several conflicts that resulted from the breakup of the USSR including Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh, and Tajikistan.
Russia, and historically the USSR, is a major producer and exporter of cluster munitions. It is thought to have a massive stockpile of cluster munitions containing hundreds of millions of submunitions. Cluster munitions of Russian/Soviet origin are reported to be in the stockpiles of at least 29 other countries.2
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, 203mm artillery projectiles), and Splav State Research and Production Enterprise Rocket (122mm, 220mm, 300mm rockets and missiles).
Background on RBK cluster bombs
RBK stands for razovaya bombovaya kasseta meaning "single-use bomb cassette." The RBK series of cluster munitions comes in two sizes (designated as 250 and 500, according to weight) and can contain various types of submunitions, including fragmentation, high explosive antitank, incendiary, runway cratering, and sensor fuzed.
RBK bombs have been used in combat by various forces in Afghanistan, Angola, Azerbaijan, Chad, Chechnya, Nagorno-Karabakh, Tajikistan, and Uganda. They have also been found in abandoned ammunition stockpiles in Angola, Azerbaijan, and Guinea-Bissau.
The PTAB-2.5M submunition is an electrically-armed submunition which contains 454 grams of explosive and is designed to explode on impact. It is reported to be capable of penetrating 120 millimeters of armor plate.
1Russian Federation Presentation, "Cluster Weapons: Real or Mythical Threat," Eleventh Session of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons Group of Government Experts, Geneva, August 2-12, 2005, p. 3.
2Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cuba, Egypt, Georgia, Guinea Bissau, Hungary, India, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, North Korea, Kuwait, Libya, Moldova, Mongolia, Peru, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Sudan, Syria, Uganda, Ukraine, and Yemen.