Depleted Uranium Shells: The United States has confirmed that it will send depleted uranium tank shells to Ukraine as part of an extensive $1bn military and humanitarian aid package. This announcement has elicited a sharp response from Russia, which has criticized the decision to arm US Abrams tanks with these contentious armor-piercing munitions.
The news coincided with Ukraine’s claim that a missile attack by Russia on a market street led to the death of 17 individuals. Simultaneously, overnight reports highlighted potential Ukrainian drone strikes in the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don and areas close to Moscow. These reports remain unverified.
The city of Rostov reportedly witnessed two drone attacks, resulting in minor injuries and some vehicular damage, according to Governor Vasily Golubev. Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin reported a similar incident in the town of Ramenskoye but mentioned no damages.
The Controversy Surrounding Depleted Uranium Shells
During US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to Kyiv, the new security package for Ukraine was unveiled. This includes the 120mm uranium tank rounds worth $175 million, intended for the M1 Abrams tanks scheduled for delivery to Ukraine later this year.
Depleted uranium is essentially natural uranium that has been rid of most of its radioactive content. Due to its high density, depleted uranium is commonly used to reinforce tank armor. It’s also employed in the tips of ammunition to penetrate traditional tank armor. Upon impact, these shells sharpen, enhancing their penetrative capacity, and subsequently ignite.
While the UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation asserts that exposure to depleted uranium doesn’t cause significant poisoning, the International Atomic Energy Agency warns of potential radiation risks for individuals handling the fragments of depleted uranium rounds. Contradicting its latest move, the Pentagon stated in March that it wouldn’t send munitions containing depleted uranium to Ukraine.
In addition to the uranium tank rounds, the US aid package includes anti-armor systems, tactical air navigation systems, and extra ammunition for Himars missiles. The US believes this assistance will further fortify Ukraine’s position.
However, Russia’s embassy in Washington strongly condemned this decision, deeming it a sign of “inhumanity”. The embassy’s statement also highlighted the “failure of the Ukrainian military’s so-called counter-offensive”.
While Ukraine’s territorial acquisitions since June have been marginal, its military leaders argue that they’ve managed to penetrate Russia’s primary southern defenses.
In another distressing development, a missile strike in the city of Kostyantynivka, situated in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region, led to the death of 17 people, including a child. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has placed the blame squarely on Moscow for this act, although Russia has yet to respond to these allegations.
The evolving situation in the region underscores the complex dynamics between the involved nations and the significant geopolitical ramifications of their decisions.