On Tuesday, UK Minister for Armed Forces James Heappey revealed that the United Kingdom had provided Ukraine with thousands of shells for the donated Challenger 2 main battle tanks. The shipment included depleted uranium armor-piercing rounds, which can cause significant damage upon penetration due to their high density. Although depleted uranium is less radioactive than unprocessed uranium, it still poses a severe health risk if people inhale or ingest tiny radioactive particles. This can lead to the development of lung, lymph, and brain cancer.
Heappey did not provide an estimate of how many depleted uranium rounds had been fired by Ukrainian armed forces, citing operational security concerns. He also acknowledged that the UK was not monitoring the locations where these rounds were fired and had no obligation to assist Ukraine in clearing up the depleted uranium rounds post-conflict.
In the past, countries that have used depleted uranium shells, such as the United States and the United Kingdom, have faced criticism from activists and health experts for their use of these weapons. Many have called for a ban on the use of depleted uranium in warfare, citing the dangers it poses to civilians and soldiers alike.
The use of depleted uranium shells by NATO forces during the 1991 Gulf War, the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and the 1999 bombing campaign in Yugoslavia resulted in widespread contamination and a surge in cancer rates across affected nations, including NATO troops. The presence of depleted uranium in Ukraine’s conflict could have severe consequences for the country’s population and environment. The use of depleted uranium ammunition highlights the need for strict regulations and international treaties to prevent the use of weapons that pose such significant dangers to human health and the environment.
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