Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Monday that the first batch of US-made Abrams tanks have arrived in Ukraine, which are armed with toxic depleted uranium (DU) ammunition.
“Abrams are already in Ukraine and are preparing to reinforce our brigades. I am grateful to our allies for fulfilling the agreements!” Zelensky wrote on X. “We are looking for new contracts and expanding the geography of supply.”
US officials confirmed the arrival in comments to The New York Times, saying they were the first of 31 tanks Ukraine would receive and that more would be delivered in the coming months. They said so far, Ukraine has received two tank platoons, which puts the number of Abrams between eight and 10.
The US is supplying Ukraine with refurbished M1A1 Abrams, an older variant of the tank. When the Biden administration first announced it would arm Ukraine with Abrams, they promised new M1A2 tanks, but they needed to be manufactured and would have taken years to be delivered, so the Pentagon chose to send older tanks to speed up the timeline.
The provision of US-made tanks marks a significant escalation of US support for the war, especially since they are armed with DU, which is linked to cancer and birth defects where it is used. The Pentagon announced it was shipping 120mm DU rounds to Ukraine as part of a weapons package announced on September 6.
The UK was the first NATO country to arm Ukraine with DU for use with British-made Challenger 2 tanks despite Russian warnings. In response to the UK sending DU to Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the deployment of nuclear weapons to Belarus.