US dismisses ‘transparently false’ Russian claims of Ukraine plan to use ‘dirty bomb’

The US has rejected as “transparently false” Russia’s evidence-free claim that Ukraine is preparing to use a “dirty bomb” on its own territory as part of an escalation of Vladimir Putin’s war.

Secretary of state Antony Blinken told his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, on Sunday “the world would see through any attempt by Russia to use this allegation as a pretext for escalation”, and vowed to continue supporting Kyiv for as long as necessary.

Earlier on Sunday, Kuleba denounced Moscow’s claims as “absurd” and “dangerous”, adding: “Russians often accuse others of what they plan themselves”.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy reacted swiftly to Moscow’s claims, calling for a united international response. “If Russia calls and says that Ukraine is allegedly preparing something, it means one thing: Russia has already prepared all this,” Zelenskiy said in a video address on social media. “I believe that now the world should react as harshly as possible.”

Zelenakiy said everyone “understands who is the source of everything dirty that can be imagined in this war. It was Russia who blackmailed with the radiation disaster at the Zaporizhzhia NPP [nuclear power plant].”

On Sunday, Russia’s defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, spoke to his British, French and Turkish counterparts and claimed in all three meetings that Ukraine may use a “dirty bomb”, a conventional weapon containing radioactive material. Shoigu also spoke to Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin, but Moscow did not mention the dirty bomb allegations in its statement summarising that call.

The Russian minister cited no evidence for this claim as he warned of “possible provocations” on the part of Kyiv.

There is no evidence that Ukraine, which gave up its nuclear weapons in the 1990s, has any radioactive material in its military arsenal.

The UK Ministry of Defence said in a statement: “Shoigu alleged that Ukraine was planning actions facilitated by western countries, including the UK, to escalate the conflict in Ukraine. The defence secretary refuted these claims and cautioned that such allegations should not be used as a pretext for greater escalation.”

The Institute for the Study of War said a “false flag” operation by Russia was unlikely, dismissing Shoigu’s calls as a sabre-rattling move designed to intimidate Ukraine’s western allies and split the Nato alliance.

Russia faces continued military setbacks, including the likely loss of western Kherson by the end of the year, it said.

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