No to Depleted Uranium Munitions in the Ukraine Conflict

No to Nuclear Weapons in Europe

Peace Talks Must Commence Now

On March 21, the British government confirmed that it will send depleted uranium munitions (DU) to the de facto Ukrainian government for use against Russian forces operating in eastern Ukraine.  These munitions, in the form of 120mm tank rounds which are to be used in British Challenger and US Abrams tanks are composed of depleted uranium, that is uranium having a lower level of uranium 235, at 0.3%, than natural uranium 235, which has 0.71% content.

These weapons are used because DU has a very high density, almost twice that of lead, and can penetrate tank armour more easily than regular ammunition, and because, on impact catches fire, causing heavy damage to or destruction of the tank and its crew. The resulting explosion can eject DU dust and particles hundreds of metres, contaminating the soil and ground water in the area of impact.

The only nations that have used DU munitions are the USA and the UK, in the first Gulf War of 1991, against Yugoslavia in 1999, Iraq in 2003, and in Syria since 2013.

Though there is not an international treaty or convention banning their use, they are widely considered a violation of the laws of war and humanitarian law since they violate the principle that weapons should only be used that cannot harm civilians. But a number of studies indicate that the lingering after effects of their use lead to increased rates of cancer, auto-immune and other diseases, birth defects, and death as well as environmental contamination that can last for hundreds and thousands of years.

Several nations have banned their use and the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities of the United Nations Human Rights Commission, passed two motions – the first in 1996 and the second in 1997 – which listed weapons of mass destruction, or weapons with indiscriminate effect, or of a nature to cause superfluous injury or
unnecessary suffering and urged all states to curb the production and the spread of such weapons. Included in the list was weaponry containing depleted uranium.

Despite this, the UK, and the USA play down the effects of DU munitions or claim studies on their effects are “equivocal.”

On March 24, Igor Kirillov, the head of the Russian Defense Ministry’s Radiation, Chemical and Biological Protection Force stated:

“The worst hazard resulting from the use of depleted uranium shells is the dust, which accumulates in the human body and triggers the development of malignant tumors and changes in internal organs.”

“The worst radiation hazard from depleted uranium is its dust, which enters the human body,”

Kirillov explained that the depleted uranium ammunition’s collision with the target produces a hot cloud of fine aerosol of the uranium-238 isotope and its oxides. In the long term, this substance is capable of triggering serious pathologies in living organisms. Alpha-radiation from small particles of uranium deposited in the upper and lower respiratory tract, lungs and esophagus is likely to contribute to the development of malignant tumors. Accumulated in the kidneys, bone tissue and liver, uranium dust leads to changes in these internal organs.”

On March 25 the Serbian Minister of Health, Danica Grujicic, stated, in response to the British announcement that, “NATO’s use of depleted uranium munitions in its air war against Yugoslavia was a “horrible and inhumane experiment” against the entire region. Contamination from these munitions led to a surge in cancer, autoimmune disease, and infertility, she added that NATO used 10 metric tons of depleted uranium during its 1999 air campaign against Yugoslavia, as the bloc admitted in a report a year afterwards. Although the report stated that depleted uranium poses “practically no danger” when ingested or absorbed through wounds, evidence from Serbia suggests otherwise.

“Radiation exists at that moment when the explosion occurs, [and] after that the nanoparticles do the work These particles “enter your lungs, digestive tract, kidneys, and then you can expect at any moment that one alpha particle, which is 50 times more carcinogenic than any other, will come out of one atom of depleted uranium in your body and turn a normal cell into a malignant one,” she explained.

Grujicic said that Serbian physicians began noticing a surge in leukemia and lymphoma cases seven years after the bombing campaign, and have since recorded increases in oncological diseases, pathological pregnancies, autoimmune diseases, mental disorders in children, and infertility in men.

Grucijic has for a long time called for an international inquiry into NATO’s use of depleted uranium. “It is essential that the citizens of Serbia know how much and what kind of damage they suffered”, the former neurosurgeon told local media in 2016, pointing out that 5,500 out of every 100,000 Serbs suffer from some kind of carcinoma, a rate nearly three times the global average.

Russia reacted to the British announcement with a statement that Russia also has such munitions but does not and will not use them in Ukraine because of their terrible effects on civilians and the environment.  But Russia also accused the NATO alliance of crossing another red line by introducing nuclear munitions into the conflict and stated it would react by sending a signal to NATO that they must not use DU munitions in Ukraine.

It did so on March 26, when President Putin announced that Russia, at the request of Belarus, will place tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus. Placed on its advance bombers, which can cross Europe in ten minutes from Belarus, these weapons, carried by Kinzhal hypersonic missiles, can strike quickly anywhere in Europe or the UK. The Russians noted that the United States has already placed its nuclear weapons in several countries of the European Union.

The former foreign minister of Yugoslavia, in a statement on March 25, said that “The deployment of Russian tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus can be seen as a response to the actions of countries of the collective West.

“I think that the agreement on the deployment of Russian nuclear weapons in Belarus is a very serious response and a warning to the so-called collective West (the United States, NATO, and the European Union). It is a response to the escalation and the direct influence by NATO countries into the conflict in Ukraine, to the reckless actions to add fuel to the fire by means of advanced weapons, intermediate-range missiles, tanks, warplanes and other offensive weapons for targeting Russia’s territory. The agreement between Russia and Belarus followed the statement that the United Kingdom and some other NATO countries plan to supply Kiev with shells with depleted uranium, which can be interpreted as the beginning of the use of nuclear weapons against Russian troops and Russia. NATO’s propaganda is seeking to underplay the danger of such weapons, which, as a matter of fact, are weapons of mass destruction,” he said.

The UK, USA and NATO continue to downplay the issue, but the Russian response has raised alarm bells the world over, not just in NATO headquarters.  As Zivadin Jovanic states, the British-NATO action is a serious escalation of the war which should never have happened or even been considered.

The Canadian Peace Congress, urges the British government, NATO and the Kiev government to cancel the decision to send DU munitions into the theatre of conflict to avoid further escalation and a spiral downward to all out war between Russia and the USA and its allies which will lead to the destruction of the world.

Further, the Canadian Peace Congress, while mindful of the statements of the Russian Federation and its justified concerns about this escalation of the conflict by NATO, urges the Russian Federation to reconsider its decision to send tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus which will also lead to further escalation of the conflict and urges it to find other avenues it can use to ward off this new NATO provocation and prevent further escalation of the conflict.

Finally, the Canadian Peace Congress calls for the United States of American to remove its nuclear weapons arsenal from the territories of the European Union; and further calls for immediate and serious peace talks between the warring parties, the implementation of a ceasefire and sincere cooperation between the United States, the NATO alliance, Ukraine and Russia to re-establish peace in the region.

April 20, 2023