The controversial rounds are “standard use” in American tanks, a spokeswoman has said
The US is confident that the Ukrainian military will use depleted uranium (DU) ammunition responsibly, Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said on Wednesday.
“I’m not going to get ahead of any announcements that the Pentagon hasn’t made yet today, but what I will say is these rounds are standard use in the tanks that not only the US uses, but that we will be providing the Ukrainians,” Singh told CNN.
“And if they are included in the packages that are coming forward today or in the coming weeks, we have absolute confidence that the Ukrainians will use them responsibly,” she added.
The possible delivery of DU ammunition was teased by the Wall Street Journal in June and leaked to Reuters last week. It was officially announced on Wednesday afternoon, as part of a new $175 million package of military aid to Kiev.
Rods made of depleted uranium are used as kinetic penetrators in anti-tank SABOT rounds fired by M1 Abrams tanks. The US promised Ukraine 31 of the tanks earlier this year, and is supposed to deliver the first batch sometime this month.
The UK has already sent a shipment of DU rounds to Ukraine earlier this year, intended for use with its Challenger 2 tanks. Both London and Washington have rejected all concerns and objections about the impact of toxic metal dust to human health and the environment, claiming that DU is not radioactive.
Critics of DU ammunition have pointed to a drastic increase in cancer and birth defects in places like Iraq and Serbia, where such rounds were used. They contend that depleted uranium rounds fragment into dust that is highly toxic when inhaled or handled.
The UN has condemned any use of DU rounds, just as it had condemned the delivery and use of cluster munitions in July, to no effect on Washington. The US and its allies have sent over $100 billion worth of weapons, ammunition, and equipment to Ukraine, vowing to support Kiev for “as long as it takes” to defeat Russia – while insisting they are not directly involved in the conflict. Moscow has condemned the deliveries as escalatory and warned the West that it’s “playing with fire.”
The Pentagon has previously dodged or shrugged off uncomfortable questions about Kiev’s “responsible” use of Western equipment, such as cluster munitions. In May, when confronted with images of burned-out US vehicles in which Ukrainian militants attacked Belgorod Region in Russia, the Pentagon and the State Department cast doubt on their authenticity and moved on.