Western countries have accused Russia of plotting to use a threat of a dirty bomb laced with nuclear material as a pretext for escalation in Ukraine as Moscow evacuated civilians from a southern city in anticipation of a major battle.
With Ukrainian forces advancing into Russian-occupied Kherson province, top Russian officials phoned their Western counterparts on Sunday and Monday to tell them Moscow suspected Kyiv of planning to use a so-called dirty bomb.
In a joint statement on Monday, the foreign ministers of France, the United Kingdom and the United States said they had all rejected the allegations and reaffirmed their support for Ukraine against Russia.
“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,” they said. “The world would see through any attempt to use this allegation as a pretext for escalation.”
Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu phoned his Western counterparts on Sunday. British Chief of Defence Staff Tony Radakin again rejected Russia’s allegations in a call with Russian Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov on Monday, the British defence ministry said in a statement.
Russia’s RIA news agency reported Gerasimov also spoke to the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley, on Monday, eight months to the day since Russia invaded Ukraine.
Russia’s defence ministry said the aim of a dirty bomb attack by Ukraine would to blame the resulting radioactive contamination on Russia.
“The aim of the provocation would be to accuse Russia of using a weapon of mass destruction in the Ukrainian military theatre and by that means to launch a powerful anti-Russian campaign in the world,” it said, adding that it had prepared its forces to work in conditions of radioactive contamination.