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What if Russia uses a dirty bomb in Ukraine?
On October 23, following a report in Russia’s state news, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu started calling his counterparts in France, Turkey, the UK, and the United States, warning that Moscow has collected intelligence suggesting that the Ukrainian government is preparing a “provocation” involving the use of a dirty bomb. A day later, Russia’s Foreign Ministry claimed that Kyiv plans to “camouflage” an explosion of “the radioactive substances derived from the spent nuclear fuel storages of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant” as the effects of a “low-power Russian nuclear warhead that contains highly enriched uranium in its charge,” supposedly framing Moscow for using tactical nukes.
At Kyiv’s own request, the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog has already begun inspections to investigate Russia’s claims, but the Kremlin has pressed on, undeterred. On October 27, Vladimir Putin said again that the Ukrainian government is “preparing an incident with a so-called dirty bomb” with plans to accuse Russia of using a nuclear weapon.
To understand what radiological weapons actually are and what their use would mean in Ukraine, The Naked Pravda turned to three experts.
Timestamps for this episode:
- (3:39) Dr. Andrey Baklitskiy, a senior researcher in the Weapons of Mass Destruction and other Strategic Weapons Program at the UN Institute for Disarmament Research, compares Moscow’s “dirty bomb” allegations to past claims about U.S. bioweapons on Ukrainian soil.
- (15:08) Dr. Nicole Grajewski, a Stanton Nuclear Security Postdoctoral Fellow with the Belfer Center’s Project on Managing the Atom at Harvard’s Kennedy School, describes how Russian warnings about Ukrainian radiological weaponry mimic past accusations against the White Helmets in Syria.
- (25:21) Sarah Bidgood, the director of the Eurasia Nonproliferation Program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, explains the rise and demise of state-level radiological weapons programs.
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