April 13, 2024

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US to supply Kyiv with armour-penetrating shells, including depleted uranium.

The United States has declared its intention to supply Ukraine with controversial weaponry, including depleted uranium shells, as part of a military and humanitarian aid package exceeding $1 billion. This move has elicited condemnation from Russia, which opposes the provision of depleted uranium ammunition, specifically for use in US Abrams tanks.

The depleted uranium tank rounds, measuring 120mm, are valued at $175 million within the larger aid package. These rounds are intended for M1 Abrams tanks set to be delivered to Ukraine later in the year. Depleted uranium is a by-product of uranium enrichment, stripped of most radioactive materials. It is considerably less radioactive than natural uranium, as attested by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Depleted-uranium rounds are prized for their extreme density and armour-piercing capabilities. Upon impact, they sharpen, further enhancing their armour-penetrating ability, and ignite post-contact. This choice of ammunition has sparked controversy, as it can pierce conventional tank armour effectively.

Russia previously expressed its displeasure when the United Kingdom announced its intention to send depleted uranium shells to Ukraine for its Challenger 2 tanks in March. President Vladimir Putin referred to these weapons as having a “nuclear component,” while the UK Ministry of Defence emphasised that it had employed depleted uranium in its armour-piercing shells for decades and accused Russia of spreading deliberate misinformation.

The US decision marks a reversal from March, when the Pentagon stated its reluctance to send depleted uranium munitions to Ukraine. Now, the rationale for this decision is centred on the belief that these munitions are the most effective means of arming Abrams tanks in Ukraine.

The Russian embassy in Washington denounced the decision as “an indicator of inhumanity” and accused the US of being in denial about the Ukrainian military’s counter-offensive. While Ukraine has made limited territorial gains in its counter-offensive since June, Ukrainian generals claim to have breached Russia’s formidable first line of defences in the south.

In the midst of these developments, a tragic attack in the city of Kostyantynivka, located in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region, resulted in 16 casualties, including a child. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky attributed the attack to Moscow, but Russia has yet to issue a response.