Vladimir Putin will trigger “severe consequences” if he detonates a dirty bomb packed with radioactive material in Ukraine, the United States has warned. Meanwhile Russia is attempting to involve the United Nations after its claim that Ukraine was plotting to explode such a device itself were roundly rejected by the West.
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu levelled his allegations against Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a phone call with Sebastien Lecornu, France’s defence minister.
His remarks prompted the UK, US and France to issue a joint statement refuting any suggestion that Ukraine was planning such a move, and describing Shoigu’s remark was “a pretext for escalation”.
Meanwhile Tory MP Tobias Ellwood, chairman of Parliament’s Defence Committee, told Express.co.uk he believed Shoigu was paving the wave for Russia itself to use a dirty bomb in the country in a “false flag” operation with the Kremlin seeking to pin the blame on Ukraine.
Speaking during his Monday night address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the Russian accusation was a sign Moscow was planning such an attack itself and would blame Ukraine.
He explained: “If Russia calls and says that Ukraine is allegedly preparing something, it means one thing: Russia has already prepared all this.”
Also yesterday, State Department spokesman Ned Price said: “We’ve been very clear with the Russians about the severe consequences that would result from nuclear use.
JUST IN: ‘They’re not leaving’ Troops see through Putin’s plot to take Kherson
Also yesterday, Russia sent a letter on its claims about Kyiv to the UN, while diplomats said Moscow planned to raise the issue with the Security Council at a closed meeting the following day.
In a letter sent to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said: “We will regard the use of the dirty bomb by the Kyiv regime as an act of nuclear terrorism.”
Russia’s defence ministry said the aim of a “dirty bomb” attack by Ukraine would be to blame Russia for the resulting radioactive contamination.
The ministry has begun preparing for such a scenario, it said, readying forces and resources “to perform tasks in conditions of radioactive contamination.”
The UN nuclear watchdog is preparing to send inspectors in the coming days to two Ukrainian sites at Kyiv’s request, in an apparent reaction to the Russian claims.
It said both sites were already subject to its inspections and one was inspected a month ago.
Russia’s state news agency RIA earlier identified what it said were the two sites involved in the operation – the Eastern Mineral Enrichment Plant in central Dnipropetrovsk region and the Institute for Nuclear Research in Kyiv.
The IAEA statement did not name the facilities it would inspect.
Since Russia’s forces suffered major battlefield defeats in September, President Vladimir Putin has escalated the war, calling up hundreds of thousands of reservists, announcing the annexation of occupied territory and repeatedly threatening to use nuclear weapons to defend Russian land.
This month, Russia started a new campaign using long-range cruise missiles and Iranian-made drones to attack Ukraine’s energy infrastructure before winter sets in.