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Rights Group Criticizes Use of Cluster Bombs in Ukraine

FILE - Ammunition at a field in the town of Debaltseve, northeast from Donetsk, March 13, 2015.

A U.S.-based rights group says both government and rebel forces used cluster bombs in eastern Ukraine in January and February, killing at least 13 civilians including two children.

Human Rights Watch said Thursday that neither side in the conflict should be using such weapons and warned that their use could constitute a war crime.

A spokesman for the rights group said not only do the weapons affect a large area when detonated, which endangers civilians, but unexploded munitions remain dangerous to civilians long after the attack.

“Using cluster munitions shows utter disregard for civilians,” said Ole Solvang, senior emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch.

Human Rights Watch said it released the report after a 10-day investigation in eastern Ukraine, where it found evidence of cluster bomb use in at least seven villages, towns, and cities between January 23 and February 12.

How Cluster Bombs Work
How Cluster Bombs Work

Investigators said they documented use of the bombs by both sides in the conflict. Three of the investigated areas were in government-controlled territory, and four were in rebel-held areas.

EU leaders meeting this week in Brussels are expected to revisit existing sanctions imposed on Russia for its role in the Ukraine crisis. The Europeans are reported to be pushing for a declaration that would prohibit the easing of those sanctions as long as Moscow continues to back the rebellion.

Earlier this week in Crimea, Russia launched three days of celebrations to mark the first anniversary of Crimea's annexation by Russia. Fireworks displays and concerts took place in cities across the Black Sea peninsula, with festivities reportedly monitored by elite Russian troops already deployed in the region.

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