Using Poison in Ukraine’s Depleted Hope of Victory

Britain’s decision to send depleted uranium rounds to Kiev represents more than a dangerous escalation in the West’s proxy war with a nuclear-armed power, writes Elizabeth Vos

U.K. Armed Forces Minister James Heappey, left, with Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace in September 2022. (Simon Dawson / No 10 Downing Street)

By Elizabeth Vos
Special to Consortium News

Depleted uranium shells have been sent to Ukraine, as confirmed by U.K. Armed Forces Minister James Heappey last week. Britain announced last month that it would send the munitions for use with Challenger 2 tanks, a move that immediately escalated nuclear tensions with Russia, with President Vladimir Putin threatening to place tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus just days later.

The U.K. move comes amid indications that Kiev is increasingly desperate, to the point of being willing to risk scorching the earth it is fighting for.

Over the last few months documents emerging as part of the so-called Pentagon leak allegedly posted online by U.S. National Guardsman Jack Teixera have shown Ukrainian forces are faring far worsethan previously reported by corporate media. As reported by Consortium News, the leaked documentsshow the long-planned Ukrainian offensive will fail miserably.”

That the conflict is not going well for Ukraine came as little surprise to those who had been following the story outside of the legacy press echo chamber. However, Britain’s decision to send depleted uranium rounds to Ukraine represents more than a dangerous escalation in the West’s proxy war with a nuclear-armed power.

It is an example of Ukraine’s willingness to target the ethnic Russian population in eastern Ukraine and poison the land it is attempting to retain. Depleted uranium will have effects not only on Russian fighters but also on the civilian population for years to come.

Ukrainian troops in the Donbass region, March 2015. (OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Radio host Randy Credico, who visited Donbass, recently told Consortium News that residents of that region already live in daily fear of U.S.-made missiles used by Ukraine to target civilians and the emergency services that come to help them: now they are to face the additional prospect of depleted uranium shells, which would not simply kill civilians now, but has the potential to poison future generations.  

Russia intervened in Ukraine after eight years of war by Kiev against the ethnic Russians in the east who declared independence from Ukraine after the U.S.-backed 2014 coup.

The U.S. and British corporate media appear to dismiss concerns of Russian nuclear escalation in response to the use of depleted uranium rounds, and the official line in the West is that such weapons represent a low environmental risk.

The Sordid History of Its Use

U.S. sailors checking rounds of depleted uranium aboard the battleship USS Missouri in 1987. (Public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

However, there are compelling reasons to question the official stance. Depleted uranium rounds were used by U.S. forces in both Iraq wars, as well as in the Balkans in the 1990s.

Depleted uranium munitions are heavier than lead and are typically used to pierce the armor of tanks. On impact the metal shears, burns and vaporizes. This process produces toxic radioactive dust. A 2001 report focusing on the health impacts of depleted uranium on U.S. veterans of the Gulf War published by The Nation explains that:

“D.U. is highly toxic and, according to the Encyclopedia of Occupational Health and Safety, can cause lung cancer, bone cancer and kidney disease… Scientists point out that D.U. becomes much more dangerous when it burns. When fired, it combusts on impact. As much as 70 percent of the material is released as a radioactive and highly toxic dust that can be inhaled or ingested and then trapped in the lungs or kidneys. ‘This is when it becomes most dangerous,” says Arjun Makhijani, president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research. “It becomes a powder in the air that can irradiate you.”

Sites identified by U.N. Environmental Programme as targets for ordinance containing depleted uranium during NATO 1999 bombing of former Yugoslavia. (UNEP 2001 report “Depleted Uranium in Kosovo, Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment)

A 1999 report by The Guardian related the sentiments of scientists speaking in regards to bombing Kosovo with depleted uranium: “One single particle of depleted uranium lodged in the lymph node can devastate the entire immune system.”

Former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter commented on the news of depleted uranium rounds being sent to Ukraine by citing increases in leukemia where it had previously been used in Kosovo as well as increases in birth defects and cancer in Iraq following the wars there.

He argues that the U.S. suppresses the health effects of depleted uranium “because we don’t want to take ownership for what we have done.”

In John Pilger’s film documenting Iraq after the first Gulf War, Paying the Price: Killing the Children of Iraq, he spoke with doctors in Basra where they reported a 10-fold increase in cancer deaths. Pilger also spoke with an Iraqi pediatrician who described an influx of congenital deformities never seen before the war.

In the case of the second Iraq War, the most striking reported effects of depleted uranium and other toxic substances were seen in Fallujah, where U.S. forces bombed mercilessly in 2004.

The rise in birth defects in Iraq have been called “catastrophic,” and The Guardian went so far as to publish a piece in 2014 that accused the World Health Organization of covering up the “nuclear nightmare” left behind in Fallujah by the U.S. and U.K.

U.S. soldiers dispose of a simulated depleted uranium round during training IN 2018 on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. (U.S. Army National Gurd/Rory Featherston)

Others have compared the city’s health crisis with that following the U.S. nuclear attack on Hiroshima.

The specific role of depleted uranium rounds in the sharply increased rate of cancer and serious birth defects remains controversial, but the accounts of doctors on the ground in Fallujah who have documented such birth defects, cancers, and other health problems are staggering.

Is this the future faced by generations of ethnic Russians in Ukraine?

When Ukraine is already set to lose, if slowly, on the battlefield, what is to be gained by taking out a few more Russian tanks if it permanently renders the land a danger to its inhabitants, permeated with toxic dust particles of radioactive heavy metal?

How can this decision be viewed as anything but a spiteful admission that that land is being lost, and that “salting” it is a final act of malice against ethnic Russians in Donbass?

The use of depleted uranium munitions in Ukraine amounts to a last-gasp of desperation and an attempt to contaminate territory Kiev knows it will not regain, for such weapons would not be supplied by Britain and used by Ukraine on land they were confident they would  recapture.

Elizabeth Vos is a freelance journalist and contributor to Consortium News. She co-hosts CN Live! 

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.


25 comments for “Using Poison in Ukraine’s Depleted Hope of Victory

  1. vinnieoh
    May 4, 2023 at 10:39

    Well, here’s another area of government the GOP can de-fund – Superfund sites like Hanford and such – because why do we need those sites when we can just spread it out all over the lands of our enemies, which we seem to find everywhere.

    /snark off.

    Some years ago ‘Scientific American’ carried a story discussing the possible role of fast breeder reactors in consuming/reducing much of the nuclear industry waste of spent fuel rods. While affirming that it was quite feasible, the main concern seemed to be how to police the chain of custody so that none of that material would get diverted for weapons production. I made the mistake of bringing it up on an internet forum such as this, and you would have thought that I’d stated that Jesus was a transvestite. So much hate was directed my way, and my inbox filled up with technical reports that I did not want and was not competent to judge.

    • Valerie
      May 4, 2023 at 17:11

      Apparently vinnieoh, it is relatively easy to make a nuclear weapon. All you need is tbe missing “jesus was a transvestite” component. (Or a bit of uranium or something.)

  2. Ian Perkins
    May 3, 2023 at 11:38

    Depleted uranium is so ‘safe’ you’d be caught and arrested for trying to bring any into the UK.
    It still contains U235, 30-40% as much as unprocessed uranium.

    • robert e williamson jr
      May 4, 2023 at 19:05

      Ian, I am very interested in where those numbers came. For instance are you a Vet or have some other contact with this data. Job in the defense industry, education, what ever.

      Here is why, I went to this site, hXXps://

      See especially > What is Depleted Uranium, (DU)

      Interesting note, this site has most all info on DU lots of interesting stuff, for instance,the fact that DU is pyrophoric.

      See especially > What are the military used of DU

      The site list the concentrations of isotopes. “Typically the percentage concentration by weight of the of the Uranium isotopes in D.U. used for military purposes is: U-238: 99.8% ; U-235: 0.2% and U-234: 0.001%.”

      The reason for my interest is this. #1 the people making this garbage are usually the lowest bidder, but this is the defense industry, I don’t rust anyone these days, especially defense contractors. #2 There is an old cynical saying about those who do work for the government, concerning the quality of work done: “That’s close enough for government work.”

      With condition of the finished products these days being somewhat concerning IO.m curious about your numbers and not questioning your integrity but m government’s respect for the The IAEA, The International Atomic Energy Agency. Especially since our government no longer seems to respect, NATO or the World Criminal Court and has pulled from several weapons agreements.

      See the United States position of Israels Nuclear Weapons, which the obtained and maintain, illegally according to the agreements on the Proliferation of Nuclear weapons.

      Thanks Ian and the CN crew.

  3. spy on this
    May 3, 2023 at 09:39

    IMO one has to be of a certain (malicious) mindset in order to reach those kinds of levels of power and authority

  4. robert e williamson jr
    May 3, 2023 at 07:54

    The use of depleted Uranium in munitions should be outlawed. Other materials would work equally well but may not be as cheap to use or as profitable to those who manufacture the stuff.

    Thanks to the nuclear industry all nations with nuclear processing capabilities are awash with the material. The vapors are rich with the depleted U which is extremely toxic to the kidneys and the general well being of humans.

    The material that remains will be around for years and years and years.

    Another of a long list of sad stories the US is responsible for. Most commenting here seem to know the horrific downside to using this garbage.

    Pitiful behavior by a country that should know better.

    Thanks CN

  5. May 2, 2023 at 19:22

    For anyone operating under the illusion that WW3 hasn’t already “Gone Nuclear” this article clearly confirms our worst fears.
    Escalations like this trigger other escalations in a vicious feedback loop of proliferation and escalation!
    What’s going to get us first, Nuclear War of runaway abrupt climate change?
    ATM it’s looking like a “Dead Heat”, pardon the pun!

  6. Lois Gagnon
    May 2, 2023 at 16:18

    The only type of human that would contemplate this action is a mass-murdering psychopath. Western governments are crawling with them. Something about this system makes it easier for these types to reach the pinnacle of power than people of conscience. This we must change. Sooner, rather than later.

  7. Ian Brown
    May 2, 2023 at 15:45

    Adding another horrifying layer to the situation, the Guardian who put out multiple damning and disturbing exposes on DU now describes it with words like these:

    “BMJ Global Health highlighted “possible associations” of long-term health problems among Iraqis,”

    “However, an overview by the International Atomic Energy Agency says there is a “lack of evidence for a definite cancer risk in studies over many decades” while a Royal Society study from 2001 concluded the most significant cancer risk was faced by soldiers in a tank who survived it being hit by a depleted uranium munition.

    One expert, Alastair Hay, an emeritus professor of environmental toxicity at the University of Leeds, assessed toxicity data shortly after the Iraq war but said that a firm evaluation was difficult because there were so many other variables.”

    They are quite literally throwing away their previous reporting and trying to sow doubt about the toxic effects of DU. I can’t imagine a greater example of state capture, esp at the moral level: Being willing to downplay chemical weapons your government is using, when you own reporting already established the undeniable horrific truth. I can’t imagine what else they must be willing to do.

    There really is the “Old Guardian” and the “New Guardian”


  8. shmutzoid
    May 2, 2023 at 13:41

    The use of depleted uranium here s genocidal ethnic cleansing. When deployed by US/UK, with or without NATO approval, it’s all good. …….It’s only a war crime when used by countries outside the realm of the oh-so-civilized West.
    ………. It’s time for the rest of the world to sanction the hell out of UK/US interests and persons.

  9. Valerie
    May 2, 2023 at 13:12

    An article by Robert Fisk (now deceased) in the Independent describes the deformities of the new born children in Fallujah:


  10. Vera Gottlieb
    May 2, 2023 at 11:24

    Oh, it isn’t just the UK government. The US/UK = the asses of evil.

    • Ian Perkins
      May 3, 2023 at 13:18

      or the abscess of evil

  11. Vera Gottlieb
    May 2, 2023 at 11:23

    When Chernobyl happened, the prevailing winds took the radio active cloud for miles and miles into Western Europe. And I don’t think it would be much different with DU .

  12. vinnieoh
    May 2, 2023 at 11:08

    In 2006 I decided to revisit the forgotten story of the US chemical assault on Vietnam. Reporting I found at that time stated that it was estimated that at least 6 million persons had been sickened by the chemicals our military had sprayed on the Vietnamese countryside.

    At that time I also learned that: more aerial bombs were dropped on North Korea than on Europe in WWII; more bombs were dropped on North Vietnam than were dropped on North Korea. I began to look at reports that are never talked about concerning ordnance used by the US military month by month. During the years that Syria was being reduced to rubble, US expenditure of ordnance was very high, and yet if we believe the whores of mainstream media it was all Assad’s doing – he alone is to blame.

    And now in Ukraine, as in Iraq, the sick sadistic minds of the military on both sides of the pond would poison what they can not buy or steal. We talk much here of the horrendous true history of the US, forgetting as we do so that the US is merely the bastard child of Europe, and especially philosophically derivative of that sickest of nations – Great Britain.

  13. Robert James Parsons
    May 2, 2023 at 10:40

    The United Kingdom air monitoring station at Aldermaston has been recording phenomenal levels of ionizing radiation from uranium/depleted uranium particles since March 2022.

    Shhhhh… Nobody is supposed to know this, so, don’t let on.

    Robert James Parsons

    • May 3, 2023 at 10:11

      As far as I know, the Aldermaston monitoring stations data do not disclose isotopic ratios of any uranium detected. I’d be happy to see otherwise! Furthermore, the data do not rule out that Russian troop disturbances of the soil around Chornobyl during the initial invasion of Ukraine contributed to these alleged readings.

  14. Lee Vail
    May 2, 2023 at 10:14

    The use of these type of weapons is an obvious war crime and must be treated as such.

  15. May 2, 2023 at 09:58

    Will the “toxic radioactive dust” causing lung, bone cancer, and kidney disease, pollute Ukraine rich native soil, and destroy it’s bread-basket economy? Ukraine is the size of Texas.

  16. Dienne
    May 2, 2023 at 09:47

    The use of depleted uranium is an admission that the Kiev regime will not re-take the eastern regions that Russia controls. If we expected to re-take that territory, we would not poison territory that would be beneficial to the empire. We are intentionally inflicting this damage on eastern Ukraine and the ethnic Russians who live there.

  17. Tony
    May 2, 2023 at 09:25

    The British government’s willingness to poison the Ukrainian people shows what they really think of them.

  18. mgr
    May 2, 2023 at 08:34

    NATO supported, promoted(?) the decision to supply depleted uranium shells to this conflict despite full knowledge of all it’s unconscionable effects. Why are these not war crimes and crimes against humanity? Because the “rules based order” allows for such? The “rules based order” is nothing but a malign force for destruction and chaos in the world. The UK, for one, should be fully recognized and shunned as an international pariah.

    It is NATO that must be dragged before the International Criminal Court and ripped to pieces. Some day, should justice ever break free from cold grasp of the Western powers, every single decision maker in the NATO alliance in every country should be arrested, convicted and never see the light of day again. There is no real peace without justice.

    • Joe Wallace
      May 2, 2023 at 15:48


      What could be more cynical than poisoning land you have no hope of recapturing? It’s what we can expect as long as the empire sitting atop the world economy is also the umpire adjudicating a “rules-based order” designed to privilege the collective West and maximize profits above all else.

  19. Mikael Andersson
    May 2, 2023 at 08:05

    James Heappey, Ben Wallace and Rishi Sunak via the Haig to prison for crimes against humanity.

  20. Valerie
    May 2, 2023 at 03:10

    “The specific role of depleted uranium rounds in the sharply increased rate of cancer and serious birth defects remains controversial,”

    It’s only “controversial” because that’s the way the governments want it. And it goes to show the lack of integrity, compassion and intelligence by the people in the government and MoD.

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