Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu alleged on Sunday that Ukraine was preparing a “provocation”, involving a radioactive device.
Shoigu made the allegations in phone calls with his counterparts from the United States, Britain, France and Turkey, reported The Associated Press.
Russia’s defense ministry said Shoigu voiced concern about “possible Ukrainian provocations involving a ‘dirty bomb,’” a device that uses explosives to scatter radioactive waste.
British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace strongly rejected Shoigu’s claim and warned Moscow against using it as a pretext for escalation.
The British Ministry of Defense noted that Shoigu, in a call with Wallace, “alleged that Ukraine was planning actions facilitated by Western countries, including the UK, to escalate the conflict in Ukraine.”
“The Defense Secretary refuted these claims and cautioned that such allegations should not be used as a pretext for greater escalation,” the ministry said, according to AP.
The US also rejected Shoigu’s “transparently false allegations,” White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement. “The world would see through any attempt to use this allegation as a pretext for escalation.”
Responding to the claims in a post on Twitter, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote, “I spoke to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. We both agreed Russia’s ‘dirty bomb’ disinformation campaign might be aimed at creating a pretext for a false flag operation. We also discussed further practical steps to boost Ukraine’s air defense. Secretary affirmed the US spares no effort to this end.”
In a televised address Sunday evening, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy suggested that Moscow itself was setting the stage for deploying a radioactive device on Ukrainian soil.
“If Russia calls and says that Ukraine is allegedly preparing something, it means only one thing: that Russia has already prepared all of it,” Zelenskyy said, according to AP.
Shoigu’s accusations come amid global concerns that Russia may use a nuclear weapon against Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a thinly veiled nuclear threat in a recent speech in which Putin also announced his country's first wartime military mobilization since World War Two.
US President Joe Biden, in his speech at the United Nations General Assembly, accused Putin of making "overt nuclear threats against Europe" in reckless disregard for nuclear nonproliferation responsibilities.
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan later said that Washington takes Putin's nuclear threats seriously but does not presently see indications of the use of nuclear weapons by Russia.