The UK's junior Defense Minister Annabel Goldie told Parliament on Tuesday, "Alongside our granting of a squadron of Challenger 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine, we will be providing ammunition including armor piercing rounds which contain depleted uranium."
"Such rounds are highly effective in defeating modern tanks and armored vehicles." News of Britain sending armor-piercing tank rounds for Challenger II tanks to Kiev triggered a fierce reaction from the Kremlin, with a strong-worded statement emphasizing that such a weapon will be treated as tantamount to using a nuclear dirty bomb.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova in words posted to Telegram highlighted the dangerous health effects of depleted uranium for all when introduced on the battlefield.
"Yugoslav scenario. These shells not only kill, but infect the environment and cause oncology in people living on these lands," she said, in reference to cancer and other deadly ailments.
"By the way, it is naive to believe that only those against whom all this will be used will become victims. In Yugoslavia, NATO soldiers, in particular the Italians, were the first to suffer. Then they tried for a long time to get compensation from NATO for lost health. But their claims were denied," she said.
Zakharova then added, "When will they wake up in Ukraine?… Their benefactors poison them." During the US occupation of Iraq, use of depleted uranium by NATO allies was linked to cancer and birth defects among the Iraqi population.
According to a summary of the hazardous weapons technology in the journal Scientific American:
Used as ammunition, it penetrates the thick steel encasing enemy tanks; used as armor, it protects troops against attack. And when it was used in the Gulf War and later during the Allied bombing of Yugoslavia and Kosovo, depleted uranium (DU) was hailed as the new silver bullet that would solve most of the military's problems.
After the end of Operation Allied Force, however, several Italian soldiers were diagnosed with leukemia. Politicians and the media soon forged a link between the disease and depleted uranium use. They further drew a parallel with Gulf War Syndrome, and in no time, depleted uranium became the Agent Orange of the Balkan conflict.
Depleted uranium presents not only a radioactive hazard, but it is also a strong toxin, and when these munitions are used this toxicity and radioactive material can be scattered across a broad area that saw prior battles, and later encountered by humans.
On the same day, reports emerged of a new push by US lawmakers to introduce cluster munitions to Ukraine, which are banned by some international treaties and condemned by human rights organizations.