British Armed Forces Minister James Heappey has confirmed that Ukraine received controversial depleted uranium from the UK for use with British-made Challenger 2 tanks.
“We have sent thousands of rounds of Challenger 2 ammunition to Ukraine, including depleted uranium armor-piercing rounds,” Heappey said in response to a question from Scottish MP Kenny MacAskill.
MacAskill asked if the UK was keeping track of how many depleted uranium rounds Kyiv was using, but Heappey declined to say. “For operational security reasons, we will not comment on Ukrainian usage rates for the rounds provided,” he said.
Heappey also said the depleted uranium rounds are now “under the control” of Ukraine’s armed forces and that the British Defense Ministry was not monitoring where the radioactive rounds were being used. “The Ministry of Defence does not monitor the locations from where DU rounds are fired by the AFU in Ukraine,” he said.
Depleted uranium is typically created as a byproduct of producing enriched uranium and is extremely dense, making it an effective metal to pierce tank armor. Since the 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.
Russia previously warned it would treat the use of depleted uranium in Ukraine the same as a dirty bomb. The UK ignored the Russian warning and first confirmed in March it was sending the munitions. In response, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced he would deploy tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus.
The US could have also sent depleted uranium munitions to Ukraine as The Bradley Fighting Vehicles the US provided Kyiv can be equipped with the munitions. But the White House has refused to say if the Bradleys that have arrived in Ukraine came with depleted uranium ammunition.