ICBUW Statement on British DU Ammunition for Ukraine

23. März 2023 Blog posts, Instagram, News, Statements

Anti-Uranium Weapons Coalition ICBUW condemns supply of UK depleted uranium ammunition to Ukraine

On March 20, 2023, it was confirmed by Baroness Goldie, the representative of the UK Ministry of Defense, that the UK will supply depleted uranium (DU) munitions together with Challenger 2 tanks. According to the Conflict and Environment Observatory (CEOBS), the ammunition in question are CHARM3 rounds (L27A1 APFSDS), which are currently no longer in production.

As recently as February, ICBUW published a list of weapons systems and their potential ammunition pending delivery to Ukraine in a special newsletter issue. The overview included, among others, DU ammunition for Challenger 2, the delivery of which has now been officially confirmed.

ICBUW regrets and condemns the decision of the British government and the use of DU by all sides involved in the war. The use of DU munitions has been shown to cause widespread and lasting damage to the health of people living in the contaminated area. Military personnel and those involved in subsequent demining are also exposed to health hazards from DU (remnants). In addition, long-term environmental damage, including groundwater contamination, occurs as a result of DU use. With regard to the supply of CHARM3 ammunition itself, we point out the additional risks posed by the fact that the ammunition expired in 2015.

ICBUW also condemns the potential use of depleted uranium munitions by the Russian army. The use of ammunition 3BM32 „Vant“ was initially confirmed by the Geneva International Center for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) in its report in 2022. According to media reports, Russian forces in Ukraine have also recently received the more modern 3BM60 „Svinets-2“ ammunition. Against this background, President Putin’s statement about the „appropriate reaction“ to the British deliveries of the weapons with „nuclear components“ seems more than surprising. The Russian side speaks of a potential „nuclear collision“ (Shoigu) or the „use of dirty nuclear bombs“ in the form of DU munitions (Gavrilov). In fact, DU projectiles are not nuclear weapons at all, but conventional weapons of high chemical-radiological toxicity and harmfulness. Everything else is false, exaggerated or propaganda.

This shows the further instrumentalization of the DU issue in the political discourse – which we observe with concern and criticize. What is true is that regardless of which belligerent uses DU weapons, that use will result in widespread environmental and public health damage.

UPDATE (26.06.2023): Due to uncertainty regarding the information provided by GICHD in the Explosive Ordnance Guide for Ukraine, ICBUW cannot verify the claim, that the depleted uranium ammunition is in use by the Russian forces in Ukraine. We have contacted GICHD for clarification and they confirmed finding 3BM-32, however, no data regarding location and amounts is available. The presence of DU ammunition in Ukraine, was confirmed by both pro-Russian (example) and pro-Ukrainian (example) media outlets, but there are still uncertainties regarding the claims. At this point we are unable to say, whether DU weapons were already used by the Russian forces.

We continue to follow reports of shipments or use of military equipment with depleted uranium components or DU ammunition. We also invite everyone interested to read our article with an overview of which states still had DU weapons in their arsenals in 2022 or the commentary on the recent UN resolution on uranium weapons. ICBUW is monitoring the developments in a working project together with Ukrainian NGOs and is trying to provide assistance for the detection, disposal and marking of DU-contaminated areas as well as for the protection of (potential) victims.