Cluster munition use reported after Ukraine’s Russian-held Luhansk attacked

Information on casualties is being clarified after air attacks cause fire in the occupied eastern Ukrainian city.

A Ukrainian soldier prepares to fire a self-propelled gun M109 Paladin towards Russian positions. They are hidden beneath camouflage netting.
A soldier of the 12th Special Forces Brigade Azov of the National Guard prepares to fire a 155mm self-propelled gun M109 Paladin towards Russian positions at the front line, near Kreminna, Luhansk region [File: Efrem Lukatsky/AP]

The Russian-held city of Luhansk in eastern Ukraine has come under repeated air attacks, according to local officials who reported the use of cluster munitions that have been banned by many countries.

The two air attacks made within three hours early on Tuesday followed at least three attacks on Luhansk and nearby areas in recent weeks by Ukraine’s military, targeting mainly fuel storage depots.

Leonid Pasechnik, Russia-installed governor of Luhansk region, said the first attack at about 9pm (18:00 GMT) was made with cluster munitions, and fires broke out as a result of the attack.

He said that information on casualties was being clarified.

Ukraine and Russia have been criticised for their use of cluster munitions on the battlefield, which have been banned by many countries because of the long-term risks posed to civilians.

The United States, which supplies Ukraine with cluster munitions, has said they are being used “effectively” by Ukrainian forces in their counteroffensive against Russia’s invasion.

Al Jazeera could not independently confirm battlefield accounts or the weapon used.

Injuries, fires reported after strikes

Russia’s TASS news agency, quoting emergency services, said injuries had been reported after Tuesday’s strikes.

Ukrainian media and war bloggers posted a picture of what they described as a large fire in the city.

An official from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said a second strike hit the city at midnight, apparently in the same general area.

Rodion Miroshnik, a special ambassador for the ministry, said city residents had heard two explosions in the same district as the site of the first attack.

“It cannot be ruled out that the repeat strike occurred at the site where rescue teams are dealing with the aftermath of the previous missile attack,” Miroshnik wrote on Telegram.

Ukrainian news outlets said the target of the second strike was an airfield and posted a video of a fire spreading over a wide area.

Ukraine made no official comment on either incident.

Russia annexed the Luhansk region several months after its February 2022 invasion, along with three other regions, though it does not fully control any of them.

Much of Luhansk has been occupied since 2014, when Russian-backed separatists took over swaths of territory in eastern Ukraine.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies