Ukraine alleges Russian dirty bomb deception at nuke plant

Kyiv, Ukraine (AP) – Ukraine’s nuclear power operator said Tuesday that Russian forces were carrying out covert work at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, activity that could shed light on Russia’s claims that the Ukrainian army is preparing a “provocation” with a radioactive device.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu made a baseless allegation that Ukraine was preparing to launch a so-called dirty bomb.. Shoigu balanced the load over the weekend in calls to his British, French, Turkish and American counterparts. Britain, France and the United States rejected it outright as “transparently false”.

Ukraine also dismissed Moscow’s claim as an attempt to distract from the Kremlin’s alleged plans to detonate a dirty bomb, which uses explosives to scatter radioactive waste in an effort to sow terror.

Energoatom, the Ukrainian state-owned company that operates the country’s four nuclear power plants, said Russian forces have carried out secret construction work over the past week at the occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine.

Russian officials controlling the area will not give access to Ukrainian staff running the plant or to monitors from the UN atomic energy watchdog that would allow them to see what the Russians are doing, Energoatom said in a statement on Tuesday .

Energoatom said it “assumes” that the Russians “are preparing a terrorist act using nuclear materials and radioactive waste stored at” the plant. He said there were 174 containers at the plant’s dry spent fuel storage facility, each containing 24 assemblies of spent nuclear fuel.

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“The destruction of these containers as a result of the explosion will cause a radiation accident and radiation contamination of several hundred square kilometers (miles) of the adjacent territory,” the company said.

He asked the International Atomic Energy Agency to assess what was going on.

The UN Security Council held closed-door consultations on the dirty bomb allegations at the request of Russia on Tuesday.

Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, sent a five-page letter to council members ahead of the meeting stating that, according to the Russian Defense Ministry, Ukraine’s Nuclear Research Institute of The Kyiv National Academy of Sciences and the Vostochniy Mining and Processing Plant “have received direct orders from (President Volodymyr) Zelenskyy’s regime to develop such a dirty bomb” and “works are in their final stages.”

Nebenzia said the ministry also received news that this work “can be carried out with the support of Western countries.” And he warned that the authorities in Kyiv and their Western supporters “will bear full responsibility for all the consequences” of the use of a “dirty bomb”, which Russia will consider “an act of nuclear terrorism”.

After the council meeting, reporters asked Russia’s deputy ambassador to the UN, Dmitri Polyansky, what evidence Russia has that Zelensky gave orders to develop a “dirty bomb.” He replied, “it’s intelligence information.”

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“We shared this in our telephone conversation with counterparts who have the required level of clearance,” he said. “Those who wanted to understand that the threat is serious, had every possibility to understand it. Those who want to dismiss it as Russian propaganda will do so anyway.”

Polyansky said the IAEA may send inspectors to investigate allegations of a “dirty bomb.”

The UK’s deputy ambassador to the UN, James Kariuki, told reporters after the meeting that “we have not seen or heard any new evidence” and that the UK, France and the US made it clear that ” this is a transparently false accusation” and “pure Russian disinformation”. He said: “Ukraine has made it clear that it has nothing to hide” and “IAEA inspectors are on their way.”

In a related matter, Russia asked the Security Council to create a commission to investigate its claims that the United States and Ukraine are violating the convention banning the use of biological weapons in Ukrainian laboratories.

Shortly after Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine, its ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, claimed that secret American laboratories in Ukraine were involved in biological warfare, a charge denied by the US and Ukraine.

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Russia has called a Security Council meeting on Thursday about Ukraine’s biological laboratories and its allegations.

The Kremlin has insisted that its warning about an alleged Ukrainian plan to use a dirty bomb should be taken seriously and criticized Western nations for shrugging it off.

The dismissal of Moscow’s warning is “unacceptable given the seriousness of the danger we talked about,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Speaking during a conference call with reporters, Peskov added: “We re-emphasize the serious danger posed by the plans drawn up by the Ukrainians.”

US President Joe Biden was asked at the White House on Tuesday whether Russia was preparing to deploy a tactical nuclear weapon after making his claims that Ukraine will use a dirty bomb.

“I spent a lot of time today talking about this,” Biden told reporters.

The president was also asked whether claims of a Ukrainian dirty bomb amounted to a false flag operation.

“Let me say that Russia would make an incredibly grave mistake if it used a tactical nuclear weapon,” Biden said. “I still can’t guarantee you it’s a false flag operation…but it would be a serious, serious mistake.”

Dirty bombs lack the devastating destruction of a nuclear explosion, but could expose large areas to radioactive contamination.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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