Is Russia’s ‘Dirty Bomb’ Claim a Pretext for Escalation?
The Kremlin did not provide evidence of Ukraine’s alleged plans to use a makeshift nuclear weapon.
Moscow will formally register its concerns over Ukraine’s alleged plans to use a dirty bomb, said Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday.
"We have also taken the necessary steps to raise this issue in international structures, first of all in the UN in New York, and today our representatives will do this hoping for an informed and professional discussion of the problems that we will touch upon," Lavrov told Russian state media at a news conference following a meeting with Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Hissein Brahim Taha. Lavrov insisted Ukraine has both the intention and capabilities to create an improvised nuclear weapon, also known as a dirty bomb. "We have information, which we have double-checked through the appropriate channels, that this is not a groundless suspicion, that there are serious reasons to believe that such things could be planned. [Russian Defense Minister] Sergey Shoigu has agreed with some of his interlocutors to hold additional consultations on this topic at a professional level," he said.
Russian military official Igor Kirillov claimed on Monday that Kyiv will seek to blame its detonation of a dirty bomb on Moscow. "Pursuant to the Kiev regime’s plans, this bomb’s detonation could be disguised as an accidental activation of a Russian low-yield nuclear munition with highly-enriched uranium used as a charge," Kirillov claimed in a Monday news briefing. The Kremlin did not provide evidence of Ukraine’s alleged plans to use a makeshift nuclear weapon.
Russian Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov and U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley discussed the risk of a dirty bomb being used in Ukraine on Monday, according to Reuters. The phone call followed a similar discussion between Gerasimov and British Chief of Defense Staff Tony Radakin.
Kyiv denounced Russia’s dirty bomb claims as a fabrication. “Russian lies about Ukraine allegedly planning to use a ‘dirty bomb’ are as absurd as they are dangerous,” said Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba. "If Russia calls and says that Ukraine is allegedly preparing something, it means one thing: Russia has already prepared all this," stated Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy in an overnight address.
Western countries said Moscow’s dirty bomb allegations may be intended as a pretext for further escalation. “Our countries made clear that we all reject Russia’s transparently false allegations that Ukraine is preparing to use a dirty bomb on its own territory,” read a joint statement released on Sunday by the governments of France, Britain, and the United States. “The world would see through any attempt to use this allegation as a pretext for escalation. We further reject any pretext for escalation by Russia.”
Mark Episkopos is a national security reporter for the National Interest.