A British official has confirmed that the UK will be providing Ukraine with depleted uranium shells to be used with the British-made Challenger 2 tanks despite warnings from Russia that it would consider the use of the toxic ammunition the same as a dirty bomb.
“Alongside our granting of a squadron of Challenger 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine, we will be providing ammunition including armor piercing rounds which contain depleted uranium. Such rounds are highly effective in defeating modern tanks and armored vehicles,” said Annabel Goldie, the British deputy defense minister, in a written response to a question posted on the British Parliament’s website.
Depleted uranium is typically created as a byproduct of producing enriched uranium and is extremely dense. Because depleted uranium munitions are radioactive, they are linked to cancer and birth defects, especially in Iraq, where US forces used an enormous number of the controversial munitions during the Gulf War and the 2003 invasion. Birth defects are still common in the Iraqi city of Fallujah to this day, likely due to depleted uranium.
Responding to the news, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu warned that sending Ukraine depleted uranium rounds brings the world closer to a “nuclear collision” between Russia and the West and warned Moscow would respond. “Naturally, Russia has something to answer this with,” he said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin also vowed a response. “If all this happens, Russia will have to respond accordingly, given that the West collectively is already beginning to use weapons with a nuclear component,” he said after a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Moscow.
Western-provided depleted uranium rounds could already be in Ukraine’s hands as the US has refused to say if the Bradley Fighting Vehicles it has provided Ukraine are armed with the toxic ammunition. Bradleys can be equipped with depleted uranium, earning them the nickname “tank killers.”