Russian President Vladimir Putin has issued a stern warning to the United Kingdom over its plan to provide Ukraine with armour-piercing tank ammunition containing depleted uranium. The UK’s minister of state for defence, Annabel Goldie, has confirmed that ammunition containing depleted uranium will be part of a military aid package sent to Ukraine, alongside Challenger 2 battle tanks.
Depleted uranium is a by-product of the nuclear enriching process and its heaviness lends itself for use in armour-piercing rounds as it helps them easily penetrate steel. However, the United Nations Environment Programme has described such ammunition as “chemically and radiologically toxic heavy metal.”
The revelation that British tanks gifted to Ukraine will come equipped with the controversial depleted uranium rounds was first reported by UK investigative outfit Declassified.
Speaking to reporters after talks with China’s leader Xi Jinping at the Kremlin, Putin warned that Moscow would be “forced to react” if the UK sends Ukraine ammunition containing depleted uranium. He argued that the West has already started to use weapons with a nuclear component, and if this happens, Russia will have to respond accordingly.
Putin’s comments come amid heightened tensions between Russia and Ukraine, which escalated after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year. Russia’s Defence Minister, Sergei Shoigu, has warned that the UK’s decision to provide Ukraine with depleted uranium ammunition has brought the world closer to a potential “nuclear collision” between Russia and the West.
The UK’s Ministry of Defence has dismissed Putin’s warning, stating that the armour-piercing shells containing depleted uranium have been standard equipment for decades and were “nothing to do with nuclear weapons or capabilities.” The ministry has accused Russia of deliberate disinformation for describing the ammunition as “weapons with a nuclear component.”
The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), an anti-nuclear organization, has condemned the UK’s decision to send ammunition containing depleted uranium to Ukraine, calling it an “additional environmental and health disaster for those living through the conflict.” CND’s general secretary, Kate Hudson, has urged the UK government to place an immediate moratorium on the use of depleted uranium weapons and to fund long-term studies into their health and environmental impacts.
The use of depleted uranium ammunition has long been a contentious issue. While it is effective in defeating modern tanks and armoured vehicles, it also poses significant environmental and health risks. Depleted uranium ammunition can release toxic or radioactive dust on impact, which can contaminate the surrounding area and harm local populations.
The controversy surrounding the UK’s decision to send depleted uranium ammunition to Ukraine underscores the growing tensions between Russia and the West over Ukraine. As the conflict continues to escalate, there are fears that the situation could spiral out of control and lead to a catastrophic outcome. In this context, it is crucial for all sides to exercise restraint and work towards a peaceful resolution of the conflict.
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