Putin using dirty bomb claim as ‘pretext for escalation’, allies warn

Putin's mouthpiece advocates escalating strikes in Ukraine

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Vladimir Putin is using “transparently false” claims that Ukraine is planning to detonate a dirty bomb as a flimsy pretext to escalation his “brutal war of aggression”, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has said. The blunt remarks were issued after Sergei Shoigu, Russia’s defence minister, made his allegations in a series of phone calls yesterday.

His allegations prompted defence committee chairman Tobias Ellwood to tell Express.co.uk Moscow itself may be planning to use a dirty bomb and attempt to pin the blame on Kyiv in a “false flag” attack.

The joint statement, issued by Mr Cleverly, French defence secretary Sebastien Lecornu and US counterpart Lloyd Austin, said they reiterated “our steadfast support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s ongoing aggression”.

It added: “We remain committed to continue supporting Ukraine’s efforts to defend its territory for as long as it takes.

“Earlier today, the defence ministers of each of our countries spoke to Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu at his request.

“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 world would see through any attempt to use this allegation as a pretext for escalation. We further reject any pretext for escalation by Russia.”

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The Foreign Ministers also discussed their “shared determination” to continue supporting Ukraine and the Ukrainian people with security, economic, and humanitarian assistance in the face of what they called President Putin’s “brutal war of aggression”, the statement concluded.

A dirty bomb is a conventional device which is packed with radioactive material. If one was one to be used in Ukraine, it would have major environmental consequences for the whole of Europe.

Speaking yesterday in response to a readout of Shoigu’s conversation with Mr Lecornu, Mr Ellwood said: “This is the pretext to Russia using one and blaming Ukraine. This is a false flag being planted.”

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Ukraine had neither the motivation nor the capacity to explode such a device, Mr Ellwood pointed out.

There was no indication whatsoever that Ukraine had either the capacity or the intention to explode such a device within their own country, Mr Ellwood stressed.

He added: “And they wouldn’t – it would jeopardise international military and diplomatic support.”

Reacting to Russia’s claims, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia was “the source of everything dirty that can be imagined in this war”.

It was Putin who was threatening the world “with a radiation disaster” at the captured Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, Mr Zelensky stressed, and also accused Moscow of planning to destroy the Khakhovka dam in the south of his country.

Mr Zelensky emphasised: “The world should react in the toughest possible way.”

In a series of tweets yesterday, US based think tank the Institute for the Study of War (IFAW) downplayed any suggestions of a false flag attack in the short term, suggesting Shoigu was trying to spook the West.

It said: “Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu likely sought to slow or suspend Western military aid to #Ukraine and possibly weaken the NATO alliance in scare-mongering calls with several NATO defense ministers today.

“The Kremlin is unlikely to be preparing an imminent false-flag dirty bomb attack. Shoigu’s claims further a longstanding Russian information campaign.”

IFAW added: “The Kremlin has repeatedly claimed that Western states will help Ukraine conduct a false-flag WMD attack since the earliest stages of its invasion of #Ukraine in February.

“Shoigu’s claims likely do not portend Russian preparations to use non-strategic nuclear weapons in Ukraine either. Such saber-rattling likely aims to intimidate Ukraine’s Western supporters & possibly widen fissures within NATO, not set conditions for imminent nuclear use.

“Shoigu’s calls – and Russian state media’s amplification of false dirty bomb threats – are likely intended to intimidate the West into cutting or limiting support for Ukraine as Russia faces continued military setbacks and the likely loss of western Kherson by the end of the year.”

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