File – Children who were born with birth defects in Fallujah. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
The Commander of the Russian army’s Radiological, Chemical, and Biological Protection Forces, Igor Kirillov, on 24 March accused the US of using “no less than 300 tons of depleted uranium” during the early years of the Iraq war.
“In 2003-2004, the USA extensively used such munitions in strikes on targets in Iraqi cities: Amarah, Baghdad, Basra, Karbala, Fallujah. According to the UN, the US used no less than 300 tons of depleted uranium in Iraq,” Kirillov told reporters on 24 March.
He added that the resulting radioactive fallout in Fallujah alone was “worse than what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”
“This city is still called the second Chernobyl,” the Russian official stressed.
A 2018 investigation by Al Araby shows Iraq recorded the highest rate of congenital malformations in the world over the previous decade. These rates were worse in Fallujah, which was showered in depleted uranium and white phosphorus by US coalition forces.
“According to the Iraqi government, in 2005, the incidence of cancer in the country due to the use of depleted uranium munitions increased from 40 to 1,600 cases per 100,000 citizens. In this regard, Baghdad filed an official lawsuit with the International Court of Arbitration in Stockholm on December 26, 2020, against Washington, claiming compensation for the damages sustained,” Kirillov added.
In 2014, the Dutch peace group Pax revealed that US jets and tanks fired nearly 10,000 depleted uranium rounds in Iraq, many of which were fired in or near populated areas.
The Kremlin official made his statement on Friday in response to the UK government saying earlier this week they will provide Ukraine with armor-piercing rounds containing depleted uranium.
Depleted uranium is a byproduct of creating enriched uranium used in nuclear fuel and weapons. Although it can not generate a nuclear reaction, depleted uranium is higher in density than lead, making it highly attractive as a projectile.
“It’s so dense, and it’s got so much momentum that it just keeps going through the armor – and it heats it up so much that it catches on fire,” Edward Geist, a nuclear expert at research organization RAND, told Al Jazeera on Thursday.
US officials backed London’s decision, claiming the ammunition is “not anywhere close to going into” the sphere of nuclear weaponry.
“This is a commonplace type of munition … If Russia is particularly concerned about the welfare of their tanks and their tank soldiers … they could just take them across the border back into Russia,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said.
The UN Environment Program described depleted uranium ammunition as “chemically and radiologically toxic heavy metal.” A 2001 World Health Organization (WHO) report concluded that depleted uranium could accumulate at the ground surface and enter the food chain, while uranium dust can be inhaled and retained in the lungs.
London’s plan to send the radioactive arms to Ukraine came to light as the twentieth anniversary of the Iraq invasion passed. Last December, the US navy named a next-generation warship the ‘USS Fallujah.’