Russian assertions that Ukraine is planning to use a dirty bomb were jointly refuted by the United States, Britain, and France on Sunday. They also issued a warning to Moscow, cautioning them not to use any excuse for escalating the conflict.
In a series of phone calls with Western defense chiefs earlier on Sunday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu made the claim about a potential dirty bomb assault.
“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,” the US State Department said in a joint statement with the British and French governments.
“The world would see through any attempt to use this allegation as a pretext for escalation,” the statement went on. “We further reject any pretext for escalation by Russia.”
A “dirty bomb” is one that is intended to pollute a large region with radioactive material, endangering bystanders. There is no nuclear explosion in it.
Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, vehemently refuted Moscow’s assertions, calling them a Russian plot for a similar strike in Moscow’s eight-month conflict against its pro-Western neighbor.
“The world should react as harshly as possible,” he said.
“If Russia calls and says that Ukraine is allegedly preparing something, it means one thing: Russia has already prepared all this,” Zelensky said in a video address on social media.
“Even the very Russian threat of nuclear weapons — and even more so against our country, which has given up its nuclear arsenal… is a reason for both sanctions and for even greater strengthening of support for Ukraine,” said Zelensky.
After first speaking with Austin on Friday, Shoigu held a series of telephone meetings with counterparts from Turkey, Britain, and France—all NATO members.
In those calls, Shoigu conveyed “concerns about possible provocations by Ukraine with the use of a ‘dirty bomb,’” the Russian Defense Ministry said.
In what the Pentagon described as a follow-up call to their conversation on Friday, Shoigu and Austin spoke on Sunday.
“Secretary Austin rejected any pretext for Russian escalation and reaffirmed the value of continued communication amid Russia’s unlawful and unjustified war against Ukraine,” said a statement afterward from Pentagon press secretary Pat Ryder.
Only two calls had been made between Shoigu and Austin since Moscow sent troops to Ukraine on February 24.