The US is set to arm Ukraine with controversial depleted uranium (DU) ammunition as part of an upcoming arms package for use with US-made Abrams tanks, Reuters reported on Friday.
DU is a heavy metal that’s a byproduct of enriched uranium and is extremely dense, making it a good material for armor-piercing rounds. But DU ammunition is toxic and is linked to cancer and birth defects in places it has been used, including Iraq, where the US used an enormous amount of DU in the Gulf War and the 2003 invasion.
The UK has already provided Ukraine with DU ammunition for use with British-made Challenger 2 tanks, but the US has yet to take the step. Earlier this year, when Russian President Vladimir Putin announced he was deploying nuclear weapons to Belarus, he said it was a response to the UK arming Ukraine with DU.
According to Reuters, the arms package for Ukraine that will include DU ammunition is expected to be announced this week. The first Abrams tanks are due to arrive in Ukraine in the coming weeks.
The Wall Street Journal reported in June that the Biden administration was expected to arm Ukraine with DU. The report said some officials were concerned the move would open up the US to criticism for providing weapons that could cause health and environmental damage.
But at this point in the war, the administration has shown it’s not concerned about damaging Ukraine’s environment. In July, the US started arming Ukraine with cluster bombs, which spread small submunitions over large areas. Unexploded submunitions, or bomblets, can be found by civilians years or decades after use. Because of their history of killing civilians, cluster munitions have been banned by over 100 countries.