Vladimir Putin (Russian News Today Putin)

Russia will be forced to respond to the supply of armor-piercing shells with depleted uranium by the UK to Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on March 21. According to Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, London’s decision means that “one more step has been passed, there are fewer and fewer of them.” On the eve of the planned supply of such ammunition, said the deputy head of the British military department Annabelle Goldie.

Previously, depleted uranium projectiles were used during the conflicts in Iraq and Yugoslavia. One of the consequences of this was an increase in the number of oncological diseases in the territories where they were actively used, experts say. Such ammunition has increased armor-piercing, experts add, but modern Russian tanks were already created taking into account the possibility of confronting such weapons.

With your shells

“The West has decided to fight Russia to the last Ukrainian not in words, but in deeds,” the Russian President Vladimir Putin commented on the information about the supply of shells with depleted uranium to Kyiv.

According to him, Moscow will be forced to react “since the collective West begins to use weapons with a nuclear component.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russia Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russia Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu

In turn, the head of the Ministry of Defense, Sergei Shoigu, said that “one more step has been passed, there are fewer and fewer of them.”

According to a close sources in the military department, British armor-piercing ammunition containing depleted uranium is a really dangerous weapon. But at the same time, modern Russian tanks were created taking into account the possibility of confronting such projectiles.

On March 21, British Deputy Minister of Defense Annabelle Goldie said that along with the supply of Challenger 2 tanks, the British would also supply Ukraine with “munitions, including armor-piercing shells that contain depleted uranium.” They are included in the ammunition of American Abrams tanks, in addition, they can be used by British Challenger 2 tanks and German Leopard 2.

Armor-piercing projectiles after exiting the bore are released from the shell and in flight they are a metal blank, on the tip of which there is a core of heavy-duty material. Crashing into the armor at high speed, it breaks through it and penetrates the inside of the vehicle, causing damage to instruments and crew.

The advantage of the depleted uranium core is the high density of the material. Compared to other metals, it has greater strength and high mass, the momentum when fired is greater than when firing shells made of steel or alloys. And having overcome the armor, such ammunition causes more damage inside the tank.

The US military used depleted uranium munitions during the wars in Iraq and during the NATO aggression against Yugoslavia.

Storm of tanks

Deliveries of ammunition with depleted uranium turn British vehicles into a formidable weapon, very unpleasant, more powerful than what the Ukrainians had up to this point, military equipment expert Valery Mukhin said.

But their number is small, and this will not greatly affect the battlefield: there will simply be additional targets that will need to be destroyed, the expert added.

“Without these shells, an English tank is simply useless,” said Valery Mukhin. – With them, he has armor penetration of 700 mm, and without them 450. A significant difference. It will not penetrate the well-protected forehead of our vehicles with conventional shells, the tank will be ineffective.

Therefore, it is transmitted with a set of topical ammunition. This is a common problem: in peacetime, everyone shoots more environmentally friendly tungsten shells, and in wartime, when targets appear that cannot penetrate, everyone will switch to uranium. This applies not only to the UK.

Uranium as a material for the production of armor-piercing shells is also convenient because there is a lot of it, Oleg Zheltonozhko, an expert in the field of radiation, chemical and biological safety, pointed out.

  • Depleted uranium is actually waste from the enrichment of uranium-238. At one time, including at the suggestion of the Americans, the production of such ammunition became widespread,” he explained. – The leading countries in the field of tank building have such technology – Russia, the United States, Israel , Germany, Great Britain, China. But the use of such ammunition is not very justified from the point of view of ecology.

With unpredictable consequences

In peacetime, after the tank has fired such projectiles, for example, in tests or exercises, the remains of the target and ammunition must be disposed of according to the radioactive safety protocol. However, in the course of hostilities this is hardly possible.

  • After breaking through the armor, the fragments of the projectile begin to burn intensely. Fine radioactive dust is formed, which affects health when inhaled and litters the area, – said Valery Mukhin.

According to him, the level of oncological diseases is definitely increasing in the area where such ammunition was actively used.

“There is already experience in using such shells,” said Oleg Zheltonozhko. – In Yugoslavia, they say that after that there was a surge in oncological diseases in the areas of their application. And in Iraq, no one particularly simply did not conduct such studies. But in principle, the use of such projectiles leads to an increase in the radiation background.

By itself, the projectile, when it is in storage, does not pose a danger. But after they are fired, it interacts with the metals of the affected tank with the formation of powders, aerosols, and all this is sprayed over the area.

“As a result, the local alpha radiation background sharply increases,” said Oleg Zheltonozhko.

The degree of pollution of the soil, surface waters is increasing. In the future, migration becomes uncontrolled. But since the quantities are not very large, they are quite difficult to track. The hit of a particular ammunition is very difficult to localize if you are not literally a few centimeters from the place where it lies.

Serious research in favor of a ban on these munitions has not been conducted.

“Since the Americans initiated the development of such ammunition, they took care of providing the ideology for their use,” Oleg Zheltonozhko noted. “But risks exist, as with any radioactive material. He must be under control. The consequences of their use are completely unpredictable. Especially in public places. When it comes to using thousands of projectiles in a local battle, a rather complicated picture will be observed.

In June 2022, Chinese Special Representative for the Korean Peninsula Liu Xiaoming said that in 1999, NATO bombed Yugoslavia for 78 days and dropped 420,000 bombs with a total weight of 22,000 tons, including 15 tons of depleted uranium.

The former head of the Center for Radiation Protection of Serbia, Radomir Kovacevic, spoke last year about the consequences of the use of depleted uranium ammunition on the country’s inhabitants and the environment.

According to him, another 60 future generations of Serbs will feel the negative consequences for their health. Kovacevic explained that the half-life of uranium is 4.5 billion years. If this element enters the body with air or food, then it remains there from 2 to 5 thousand days. The body fights and removes it, but on condition that uranium does not enter the bone tissue.