Ukraine alleges Russian dirty bomb deception at nuke plant

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — A Ukrainian nuclear power operator said Tuesday that Russian forces were carrying out covert work at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, a development that could shed light on Russian claims that the military of Ukraine is preparing a “provocation” involving a radioactive device.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu made the unsubstantiated allegation that Ukraine was preparing to develop a so-called dirty bomb.. Shoigu made the charge over the weekend when he called his allies in Britain, France, Turkey and the US. Britain, France and the United States rejected it as “an outright lie.”

Ukraine has also denied Moscow’s accusation as an attempt to distract attention from the Kremlin’s alleged plans to detonate a dirty bomb, which uses explosives to disperse radioactive waste in an effort to spread fear.

Energoatom, Ukraine’s state-owned company that operates four of the country’s nuclear power plants, said Russian forces carried out secret construction work last week at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.

Russian officials who control the site will not give access to Ukrainian workers who run the plant or monitors from the UN that would allow them to see what the Russians are doing, Energoatom said on Tuesday in a statement.

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

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“The destruction of these containers due to the explosion will lead to a radiation hazard and radiation contamination of several hundred square kilometers of the surrounding area,” said the company.

It called on the International Atomic Energy Agency to investigate the incident.

The UN Security Council held closed-door talks on Tuesday on the dirty bomb allegations at Russia’s request.

Russia’s UN Ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, sent a five-page letter to council members ahead of the meeting stating that according to the Russian Ministry of Defense, the Ukrainian Center for Nuclear Research of the National Academy of Sciences in Kyiv and Vostochniy Mining and Processing Plant “received directly. instructs (President Volodymyr) in Zelenskyy’s regime to produce such a dirty bomb” and “the works are in their final stage.”

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

Russia’s deputy ambassador to the UN Dmitry Polyansky was asked by journalists after the court session what evidence Russia has that Zelenskyy gave orders to produce a “dirty bomb”. He replied, “it’s intelligence.”

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He said: “We shared it in our telephone conversation with the partners who have the required level of approval.” “Those who wanted to understand that the threat is serious, they had every opportunity to understand that. Those who want to dismiss it as Russian propaganda, they will do it anyway.”

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

Britain’s deputy UN ambassador James Kariuki told reporters after the meeting that “we are not seeing or hearing any new evidence” and the UK, France and the US have made it clear “this is a false allegation transparent” and “Russian disinformation.” He said, “Ukraine clearly has nothing to hide” and “IAEA inspectors are on their way.”

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

Shortly after Russia attacked Ukraine on February 24, its ambassador to the United Nations, Vassily Nebenzia, said that the secret American labs in Ukraine were engaged in biological warfare – the accusation rejected by the US and Ukraine.

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

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The Kremlin has insisted that its warning of a Ukrainian plan to use a dirty bomb should be taken seriously and has criticized Western nations for undermining it.

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 journalists, Peskov added: “We also emphasize the great danger posed by the projects planned by the Ukrainian people.”

At the White House, US President Joe Biden was asked on Tuesday whether Russia was preparing to use a tactical nuclear weapon after making its claims that Ukraine would use a dirty bomb.

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

The president was also asked if the accusations about the dirty bomb in Ukraine amounted to a false flag operation.

“Let me just say, Russia would be making a very big mistake if they used a smart nuclear weapon,” Biden said. “I can’t guarantee you that this is a false flag operation … but it could be a serious, serious mistake.”

Dirty bombs do not have the devastating damage of a nuclear explosion but can 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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