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Earlier this week, Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu accused Ukraine of planning to use a “dirty bomb” – a powerful explosive with radioactive materials that scatter through the air when exploded. But, three NATO nuclear powers – the US, the UK and France dismissed Russia’s claims with a joint statement, suspecting it was an excuse for Moscow’s potential use of tactical weapons.
Now, the West has speculated that Russia might be planning to use a dirty bomb and blame it on Ukraine in a “false flag” attack. The US-based Institute for the Study of War has also said that Shoigu may have wanted to “slow or suspend Western military aid to Ukraine and possibly weaken the NATO alliance in scare-mongering calls.” Ukraine has asked the UN to come inspect its nuclear power facilities to prove Russia’s claims wrong. Energoatom, Ukraine’s state nuclear body, has also said that Russian forces have been working on some secret project at the occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, and it wants international officials to come see what’s going on.
On Wednesday, Russia rehearsed its response to a nuclear attack in an exercise with nuclear submarines, strategic bombers and ballistic missiles. So far, no dirty bombs have actually been used anywhere in the world, despite a few attempts.
“Let me just say, Russia would be making an incredibly serious mistake if it were to use a tactical nuclear weapon,” US President Biden said. “I’m not guaranteeing you that it’s a false-flag operation yet … but it would be a serious, serious mistake.”
“Shoigu’s claims likely do not portend Russian preparations to use non-strategic nuclear weapons in Ukraine either. Such saber-rattling likely aims to intimidate Ukraine’s Western supporters & possibly widen fissures within NATO, not set conditions for imminent nuclear use,” said the Institute for the Study of War on Twitter, adding, “The Kremlin is unlikely to be preparing an imminent false-flag dirty bomb attack.”
“At this time, we haven’t seen any reason to adjust our own nuclear posture, nor do we have indications that Russia is preparing to use nuclear weapons, but we’ve heard these very concerning statements,” said Ned Price, US State Department spokesman.