Western countries say Russia may be planning ‘dirty bomb’ excuse

  • Ukrainian troops launch offensive in Kherson region
  • Russian Defense Minister calls Western counterparts
  • Kyiv spy chief says Moscow plans to defend Kherson

Kyiv, Oct 24 (Reuters) – Western nations on Monday accused Russia of conspiring to use the threat of a nuclear material bomb as a pretext for Ukraine’s escalation as Moscow evacuated civilians from the southern city in preparation for a major war.

As Ukrainian troops moved into the Russian-occupied province of Kherson, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu called his Western counterparts on Sunday to tell them that Moscow suspected Kyiv was planning to use a so-called “dirty bomb.”

The foreign ministers of France, Britain and the United States said in a joint statement that they all denied the allegations and reiterated their support for Ukraine against Russia.

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“Our country has made it clear that we all reject Russia’s clearly false allegations that Ukraine is preparing to use dirty bombs on its soil,” they said. “The world will see through any attempt to use this allegation as an excuse for escalation.”

Speaking overnight, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Russia’s allegations showed Moscow was planning such an attack and would blame Ukraine.

“If Russia calls and says what Ukraine is allegedly preparing, it means one thing: Russia is ready for it all,” Zelensky said.

“So when today the Russian Defense Minister organized the phone carousel and called the Foreign Minister with the so-called ‘dirty’ nuclear bomb story, everyone understood everything very well. Understand who is in this war with everything imaginable Dirty source.”

Asked about the fact that others did not appear to believe the Russian allegations, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said at a briefing on Monday: “Their disbelief does not mean there is no threat… … the threat is clear.”


Russia has ordered the evacuation of civilians from territory it controls on the West Bank of the Dnieper, where Ukrainian troops have been advancing since shortly after Moscow claimed annexation earlier this month.

Russia’s defeat would be one of Moscow’s biggest setbacks in the war. The regional capital of Kherson is the only large city Russia has fully occupied since the February invasion, and its only foothold on the west bank of the Dnieper River, which bisects Ukraine. The province controls the gateway to Crimea, a peninsula Russia occupied and claimed to have annexed in 2014.

The Russian authorities in Kherson announced on Monday that men who remained had the option to join the military self-defense force. Kyiv has accused Russia of driving men into military formations in occupied territories, a war crime under the Geneva Conventions.

Kyrylo Budanov, head of Ukrainian military espionage, said Russian troops were preparing to defend the city of Kherson rather than retreat from it, reportedly as part of a Russian propaganda campaign. While Russia is moving financial structures, equipment, vulnerable residents and the wounded from Kherson, it is also strengthening its defenses, he said.

“They are creating the illusion that everything has been lost. But at the same time, they are moving new military units in and preparing to defend the streets of Kherson,” he told Interfax Ukrainian news agency.

Since the Russian army suffered a major defeat on the battlefield in September, President Putin has escalated the war, calling in hundreds of thousands of reservists, announcing the annexation of occupied territories and repeatedly threatening to use nuclear weapons to defend Russian territory.

This month, Russia began a new campaign using long-range cruise missiles and Iranian-made drones to attack Ukraine’s electricity and heat ahead of winter.

Russian state television is filled with talk shows by pundits who openly cheered the attack on Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure and called for tougher measures to eliminate what they say is the illegal Ukrainian state.

On Monday, Russian state TV host Anton Krasovsky apologized for his remarks calling for Ukrainian children to be drowned in rivers and burned alive in closed huts. He also joked that Ukrainian grandmothers were saving on their funeral costs to pay for Russian soldiers raping them.

“Well, it happened: you’re on air, you’re taken. And you can’t stop,” Krasowski said, adding that he was “really embarrassed.”

Krasovsky has been suspended by Russia’s state-funded international channel RT, and Russia’s investigative committee said it had ordered a report on his “sharp comments”.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitro Kuleba said Krasovsky would one day be indicted for preaching genocide and called on countries to ban the inversion.

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Written by Peter Graff, edited by Angus MacSwan and Tomasz Janowski

Our Standard: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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