France, the UK and the US say Russia’s allegations are ‘transparently false’ and a likely pretext for escalation.
Russia has told the United Nations Security Council that Ukraine is preparing to use a “dirty bomb” laced with radioactive material on its own territory, an assertion dismissed by Western and Ukrainian officials as a pretext for escalating the war.
Moscow sent a letter detailing the allegations to the UN on Monday and raised the issue at a closed meeting with the UNSC on Tuesday.
“We’re quite satisfied because we raised the awareness,” Russia’s Deputy UN Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy told reporters.
“I don’t mind people saying that Russia is crying wolf if this doesn’t happen because this is a terrible, terrible disaster that threatens potentially the whole of the Earth.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Tuesday repeated Russia’s allegations and said the West was foolish to dismiss them.
It follows hints from Moscow that it might be forced to use a tactical nuclear weapon against Ukraine, whose president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said the dirty bomb allegation showed Moscow was planning such an attack and seeking to blame Kyiv.
With Ukrainian forces advancing into Russian-occupied Kherson province, threatening a considerable defeat for Moscow, Russian officials phoned their Western counterparts on Sunday and Monday to air their suspicions.
Russia has alleged that Kyiv ordered two organisations to create a dirty bomb, an explosive device laced with radioactive material, without giving any evidence.
France, the United Kingdom and the United States said the allegations were “transparently false” and Washington warned Russia there would be “severe consequences” for any use of nuclear weapons.
“We’ve seen and heard no new evidence,” Britain’s Deputy UN Ambassador James Kariuki told reporters on Tuesday, referring to Russia’s “transparently false allegations”.
He added: “This is pure Russian misinformation of the kind of we’ve seen many times before and it should stop.”
Russia’s defence ministry said the aim of a dirty bomb attack by Ukraine would be to blame Moscow for the radioactive contamination, which it said Russia had begun preparing for.
In an apparent response to Moscow’s allegation, the UN nuclear watchdog said it was preparing to send inspectors to two unidentified Ukrainian sites at Kyiv’s request, both already subject to its inspections.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told reporters the inspectors would receive full access, and he called on Moscow to demonstrate the same transparency as Ukraine.
Russia’s state news agency RIA has identified what it said were the two sites involved – the Eastern Mineral Enrichment Plant in the central Dnipropetrovsk region and the Institute for Nuclear Research in Kyiv.
President Vladimir Putin has not spoken publicly about the dirty bomb allegations but on Tuesday said Russia needed to streamline decision-making in relation to what it calls its “special military operation”.
Speaking at the first meeting of a new coordination council to manage the government’s work on the home front, Putin said increased coordination of government structures and regions was necessary.