WASHINGTON: The Biden administration will for the first time send controversial armour-piercing munitions containing depleted uranium to Ukraine, according to a document seen by Reuters and separately confirmed by two US officials.
The rounds, which could help destroy Russian tanks, are part of a new military aid package for Ukraine set to be unveiled in the next week. The munitions can be fired from US Abrams tanks that, according to a person familiar with the matter, are expected be delivered to Ukraine in the coming weeks.
One of the officials said that the coming aid package will be worth between US$240 million and US$375 million depending on what is included.
The value and contents of the package were still being finalised, the officials said. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Although Britain sent depleted uranium munitions to Ukraine earlier this year, this would be the first US shipment of the ammunition and will likely stir controversy. It follows an earlier decision by the Biden administration to provide cluster munitions to Ukraine, despite concerns over the dangers such weapons pose to civilians.
The use of depleted uranium munitions has been fiercely debated, with opponents like the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons saying there are dangerous health risks from ingesting or inhaling depleted uranium dust, including cancers and birth defects.
A by-product of uranium enrichment, depleted uranium is used for ammunition because its extreme density gives rounds the ability to easily penetrate armour plating and self-ignite in a searing cloud of dust and metal.
While depleted uranium is radioactive, it is considerably less so than naturally occurring uranium, although particles can linger for a considerable time.