Russia has accused Ukraine of planning to detonate a radioactive dirty bomb and blame it on Moscow.
Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu discussed the “rapidly deteriorating situation” in the Ukraine war in calls with NATO nations on Sunday.
Without providing evidence, Shoigu said Ukraine could escalate the conflict with a dirty bomb — a device that uses explosives to scatter radioactive waste. It does not have the devastating effect of a nuclear explosion, but it could expose broad areas to radioactive contamination.
“The purpose of the provocation is to accuse Russia of using weapons of mass destruction in the Ukrainian theatre of operations and thereby launch a powerful anti-Russian campaign in the world aimed at undermining confidence in Moscow,” the RIA Novosti news agency said on Telegram.
“The calculation of the organisers of the provocation is that if it is successfully implemented, most countries will react extremely harshly to the ‘nuclear incident’ in Ukraine,” the post said. “As a result, Moscow will lose the support of many of its key partners.”
Russia provided no evidence to substantiate its allegation.
Officials in Kyiv immediately hit back.
“If anyone can use nuclear weapons in this part of Europe — it can be only one source — and that source is the one that has ordered comrade Shoigu to telephone here or there,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly video message.
Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said “Russian lies” about a dirty bomb “are as absurd as they are dangerous”.
“Firstly, Ukraine is a committed NPT [nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] member: We neither have any ‘dirty bombs’ nor plan to acquire any,” he said. “Secondly, Russians often accuse others of what they plan themselves.”