U.K. Says No Nuclear Escalation in Ukraine After Row Over Depleted Uranium Munitions

A building heavily damaged by a Russian drone strike, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in the town of Rzhyshchiv, in Kyiv region, Ukraine, Wednesday. (Press service of the Kyiv Regional Prosecutor’s Office/Handout via REUTERS)

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said on Wednesday there was no nuclear escalation in the Ukraine war after Russian President Vladimir Putin criticized Britain for supplying depleted uranium tank munitions to Ukrainian forces.

Britain had on Monday confirmed it was supplying Ukraine with ammunition that contained depleted uranium. The heavy metal is used in weapons because it can penetrate tanks and armor more easily due to its density, amongst other properties.

But Putin on Tuesday condemned British plans to send such ammunition to Ukraine, saying Moscow would be forced to respond accordingly, as such weapons had “a nuclear component.”

Cleverly told reporters at an event in London that Russia was the only country talking about nuclear issues. “There is no nuclear escalation,” he said. “The only country in the world that is talking about nuclear issues is Russia. There is no threat to Russia, this is purely about helping Ukraine defend itself.

“It’s worth making sure everyone understands that just because the word uranium is in the title of depleted uranium munitions, they are not nuclear munitions, they are purely conventional munitions.”

Britain has used depleted uranium in its armor-piercing shells for decades and does not consider those rounds as having a nuclear capability. Russia is known to also use ammunition containing depleted uranium.

It is a particular health risk around impact sites, where dust can get into people’s lungs and vital organs.

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