VLADIMIR Putin vowed to use his “sufficient stockpile” of cluster bombs “if necessary” in a chilling message to the West today.
The tyrant said Russia would use the munitions – which are banned more than 100 countries – if they were deployed against his forces in Ukraine.
Ukraine received controversial cluster bombs last Thursday – less than a week after the US said it would donate the weapons to help in the fight against Russia.
The munitions – which can release large numbers of smaller bombs over a great area – are widely banned as unexploded “bomblets” can linger on the ground, detonating years later on civilians.
Kyiv said it will use the weapons to blast enemy soldiers as it tries to take back areas of Ukraine – but said it will not use them on Russian territory.
Putin told state TV that Moscow would respond if necessary.
He said: “I want to note that in the Russian Federation there is a sufficient stockpile of different kinds of cluster bombs.
“We have not used them yet. But of course if they are used against us, we reserve the right to take reciprocal action.”
Putin said he regarded the use of cluster bombs as a crime – and that Russia had so far not needed to use them.
Human Rights Watch said both Moscow and Kyiv have used cluster munitions in the war – which has been raging for more than a year.
Russia, Ukraine and the US have not signed up to the Convention on Cluster Munitions – which bans the production, stockpiling, use and transfer of the weapons.
The White House had initially held off sending the cluster bombs to Kyiv over fears of harming the innocent.
But US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said they are “necessary” owing to Russia’s use of the weapons.
He added: “Ukraine would not be using these munitions in some foreign land.
“This is their country they’re defending.”
The US announced on July 7 that it would send Ukraine the weapons.
Human rights groups have urged Ukraine not to use the cluster bombs – and the US not to supply them.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said: “Cluster munitions scatter small bomblets over a wide area, many of which fail to explode immediately.
“They can kill and maim years later. That’s why use should stop immediately.”
Russia previously used the bombs early in the war, killing 47 and destroying a school.
Terrified mothers and children were forced to take shelter in the basement of the hospital in a residential area of Zhytomyr.
Chilling video filmed in the aftermath showed bodies strewn across the streets in one of the hardest-hit regions of the conflict.
Windows were shattered in the blast, while burned-out cars scattered the road following the strike.
The delivery of the deadly weapons to Ukraine comes as Russia is facing upheaval in the highest ranks of its military.
Haunting footage was revealed yesterday of the moment a high ranking Russian naval captain was murdered while on a run.
Many believe a purge by Putin has begun after three of his top advisers have gone missing.
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