After months of requests from Kyiv, several Western countries have agreed to supply battle tanks to Ukraine. The Kremlin is now warning that a special type of ammunition could have severe and drastic consequences: a “nuclear escalation”.
Ukraine will receive various modern main battle tanks from various western countries.
The Leopard 2 (GERMANY), the M1 Abrams (USA) and the Challenger 2 (UK) tanks, can fire depleted uranium ammunitions.
Now Konstantin Gavrilov said that the use of this type of projectiles would be treated as a use of nuclear weapons and that they would react accordingly.
During the conflict in Yugoslavia, NATO used such radioactive shells. Due to the enormous heat that is generated during the impact, uranium oxides are formed that can contaminate large areas.
Konstantin Gavrilov: ‘We warn the Western sponsors of the Kiev military machine against encouraging nuclear provocations and blackmail. We know that Leopard 2 tanks, as well as the Bradley and Marder armored infantry carriers are armed with armor-piercing projectiles with uranium warheads. Their use leads to the contamination of the area, like it was in former Yugoslavia and Iraq.
‘In case such munitions for NATO-made heavy weapons are supplied to Kiev, we will consider that as the use of dirty nuclear bombs against Russia with all the consequences that come with it.‘
DUR vs tungsten
The three types of tanks enumerated above can fire uranium-depleted ammunition from their main 120mm caliber guns. The US military uses so-called “depleted uranium rounds” (DUR).
Depleted uranium is produced as a waste product during the enrichment of uranium. In addition to its significantly low but still significant level of radioactivity, it is characterized by its enormous density of 19.2 grams per cubic centimeter. For comparison: steel has a density of 7.85 grams per cubic centimeter and is therefore significantly “lighter”.
In contrast, the ‘Bundeswehr’ is now using 120mm projectiles with a tungsten core as Germans don’t enrich uranium themselves. With a density of 19.3 grams per cubic centimeter, the rare metal is even slightly denser than depleted uranium.
Tank shells with depleted uranium (DUR) are dangerous because of the radioactivity they release. The UN Office for Disarmament Affairs writes in a report examining the 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia that when a DUR hits a metal plate, the tremendous kinetic energy is converted into heat, which then produces various forms of uranium oxides.
These microscopic uranium particles can then travel distances of up to 26 miles (42 kilometers) and thus potentially contaminate a large area. According to the United Nations, however, the main danger is internal contamination (increased rate of cancer and weird anomalies by people inhaling the particles).
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