Why Does Russia Want the World to Believe Ukraine Is Planning to Use A “Dirty Bomb”? – In a series of phone calls with NATO defense secretaries on Sunday, Russian Defense Secretary Sergey Shoigu claimed that Ukraine is planning to use a radioactive dirty bomb and then blame the attack on Moscow. It follows months of threats to deploy tactical nuclear weapons by Moscow in response to a perceived threat to Russia.
The claims were echoed by Russian news agency RIA Novosti, which wrote that the purpose of Ukraine’s alleged plot was to “accuse Russia of using weapons of mass destruction in the Ukrainian theatre of operations and thereby launch a powerful anti-Russian campaign in the world aimed at undermining confidence in Moscow.”
“The calculation of the organizers of the provocation is that if it is successfully implemented, most countries will react extremely harshly to the ‘nuclear incident’ in Ukraine,” the news agency also wrote on Telegram.
What Is A Dirty Bomb?
A dirty bomb refers to a kind of bomb that uses a combination of different explosives. In this instance, Russia appears to be referring to a kind of explosive that uses radioactive pellets or powder.
Importantly, a dirty bomb is not the same as a nuclear bomb. A nuclear bomb creates an enormous energy release and an atomic mushroom cloud. A one-megaton atomic bomb can create a blast that puts 180 tons of pressure on walls and buildings within a 6km radius.
A dirty bomb, on the other hand, does not create such a huge blast. Instead, the radioactive material within the explosives creates a dust or smoke cloud that can contaminate large areas.
UK Casts Doubt On Claims
British Secretary of Defense Ben Wallace cast doubt on Russia’s claims this weekend, suggesting that Russia was establishing a pretense to escalate the conflict.
“The defence secretary refuted these claims and cautioned that such allegations should not be used as a pretext for greater escalation,” the Ministry of Defense said in a statement on Saturday.
The comment followed talks between the United Kingdom and Russia, and the statement appears to reflect the position of other NATO allies who believe that Russia remains the aggressor in the conflict.
Shoigu Holds Another Call With Austin
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu held a second phone call with U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Sunday, the third such call since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and only days after the last call.
Shoigu held calls with several world leaders over the matter, revealing Russia’s intention to ensure that as many world leaders as possible are aware of their dirty bomb narrative. The Russian official reportedly provided no details or evidence for the claims, and readouts of the call revealed that Shoigu said that the situation in Ukraine is getting worse.
Why the Kremlin is making these claims now is up in the air. It’s possible that Russia does have intelligence to suggest Ukraine is considering a false flag attack as an option, but if it were true it raises some serious questions.
Specifically, it raises the question of why Ukraine would risk endangering lives and causing a global conflict when the West is already providing enormous quantities of weapons, ammunition, and other supplies to assist in the fight against Russia. Ukraine has the West’s support and won’t lose it anytime soon. The use of a dirty bomb not only risks that support from the West but endangers Ukrainian civilians. To be frank, it makes no sense at all.
Perhaps, then, Russia is going to these lengths to ensure as many world leaders as possible know that they believe this is the case or to ensure that those world leaders know Russia wants them to believe that they believe this is the case.
Whether the West believes Moscow or not doesn’t necessarily matter – a pretext has been established and if Russia does choose to deploy a dirty bomb, the Kremlin will simply blame Ukraine and move on.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.