The UK has defended its decision to send shells made with depleted uranium to Ukraine as Vladimir Putin continues to ramp up tensions over nuclear war. The tyrant claimed Russia would be “forced to react” if the UK sent the hardware.
He went on to accuse the West of deploying weapons with a “nuclear component”, wilfully ignoring that the munitions being sent are not nuclear weapons and only use a related substance.
The Ministry of Defence has pointed out that depleted uranium “is a standard component and has nothing to do with nuclear weapons”.
It said the British Army had been using such shells in its arsenal “for decades,” adding: “Russia knows this, but is deliberately trying to misinform.
“Independent research by scientists from groups such as the Royal Society has assessed that any impact to personal health and the environment from the use of depleted uranium munitions is likely to be low.”
The UK confirmed it would provide Kyiv the armour-piercing rounds alongside Challenger 2 tanks.
Former British Army tank commander and chemical weapons expert Col Hamish de Breton-Gordon, similarly disregarded Putin’s comments as “classic disinformation”.
He added it was “laughable” to suggest depleted uranium rounds were in any way linked to nuclear weapons, which uses enriched uranium – as opposed to the depleted uranium in the rounds used by Challenger 2 tanks.
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Depleted uranium is what is left over after natural uranium has been enriched – either for weapons-making or for reactor fuel – and is mildly radioactive. It is primarily used to harden rounds so they can penetrate armour.
Echoing his dictator’s inflammatory language, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said sending depleted uranium ammunition to Ukraine would mean the UK was “ready to violate international humanitarian law as in 1999 in Yugoslavia”.
He added: “No doubt this will end badly for London.”
However, weapons which used depleted uranium can be “more significant” for their poisonous qualities, rather than the radiation.
When a weapon made with a depleted uranium tip strikes a solid object, such as the side of an armoured vehicle, it will go straight through it before erupting in a cloud of vapour. This will settle as poisonous and weakly radioactive dust.
A spokesman for the Pentagon said on Tuesday that the US will not be sending depleted uranium rounds to Ukraine.
When similar shells were used in Iraq and the Balkans, some claimed they were linked to birth defects.
Meanwhile a 2022 UN Environment Programme (UNEP) report claimed depleted uranium was an environmental concern for Ukraine, saying: “Depleted uranium and toxic substances in common explosives can cause skin irritation, kidney failure and increase the risks of cancer. The chemical toxicity of depleted uranium is considered a more significant issue than the possible impacts of its radioactivity.”