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25 Mar 2023
Jack Montgomery

NextImg:Hungary Warns UK Against Sending Depleted Uranium Ammunition to Kyiv

NATO member Hungary has said it does not support Britain sending depleted uranium ammunition to Ukraine, warning it could cause unwanted “escalation”.

The British government under Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was the first in the West to pledge Western tanks — namely the Challenger 2 — to Ukraine, but the depleted uranium rounds it comes with have provoked a sharp response from the Kremlin.

Speaking to reporters following his summit with Chinese dictator Xi Jinping, Russian president Vladimir Putin said that as he had been discussing the possibility of implementing Chinese peace plans “it became known that the United Kingdom… announced not only the supply of tanks to Ukraine, but also shells with depleted uranium.”

“It seems that the West really decided to fight with Russia to the last Ukrainian — no longer in words, but in deeds,” the Russian leader declared.

“But in this regard, I would like to note that if all this happens, then Russia will have to respond accordingly. I mean that the collective West is already starting to use weapons with a nuclear component.”

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Now the government of Hungary, a NATO member, has cautioned that it does not support its British allies shipping the controversial shells to Ukraine.

“Hungary does not support any actions that could lead to an escalation of the war,” said Gergely Gulyas on behalf of Hungary’s national conservative government, which has consistently opposed shipping weapons to Ukraine and intensifying the Western sanctions war with Russia, arguing that both policies are self-harming.

The British government, for its part, has insisted that the “British Army has used depleted uranium in its armour piercing shells for decades.”

“Russia knows this, but is deliberately trying to disinform. Independent research by scientists from groups such as the Royal Society has assessed that any impact to personal health and the environment from the use of depleted uranium munitions is likely to be low,” the Ministry of Defence asserted in comments quoted by the BBC.

The state broadcaster noted, however, that the United Nations has expressed concern about the use of depleted uranium weaponry in Ukraine, highlighting a 2022 UN Environment Programme (UNEP) report warning that “[d]epleted uranium and toxic substances in common explosives can cause skin irritation, kidney failure and increase the risks of cancer.”

The Kremlin has continued to press the issue since Putin first raised it, with spokeswoman Maria Zakharova remarking of a visit by Prince William to British and Polish troops: “I wonder if William Charles-ovich has brought depleted uranium ammunition for his troops.”

Why she used a Russian-style patronymic for King Charles’s heir apparent is unclear, but the Royal Family and Russia’s former ruling dynasty are related, with the last tsar, Nicholas II, having been a grandson of Queen Victoria.

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