What is a dirty bomb and why is Russia talking about it?


Russia has accused Ukraine of planning to use a so-called dirty bomb, which Kiev and its Western allies have dismissed as a false flag operation that Moscow could use as a pretext to escalate the Kremlin’s war against its neighbor.

A dirty bomb is a weapon that combines conventional explosives such as dynamite with radioactive materials such as uranium. It is called a weapon of terrorists, not states, because it aims to spread fear and panic rather than destroy any military targets.

Ukrainian officials have repeatedly denied Moscow’s accusations, and Kyiv’s foreign minister has invited UN inspectors to visit Ukraine, showing he has “nothing to hide.”

Here’s what you need to know.

Without providing any evidence, Moscow claims that Ukraine has scientific facilities with the technology needed to build a dirty bomb, and accuses Kiev of planning to use them.

The Russian Defense Ministry said at a press conference on October 24 that Kiev was planning a provocation related to the dirty bombing.

“This provocation is a powerful anti-Russian campaign aimed at undermining Moscow’s credibility by accusing Russia of using weapons of mass destruction in the Ukrainian theater of operations,” said Igor Kirillov, head of Russia’s Radiation Service. , Chemical and biological defense forces.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu made the announcement in a telephone conversation with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on October 23, according to an American official familiar with the conversation.

Shoigu also made such comments to his French and British partners.

Reuters reports that Russia plans to present its accusations against Ukraine at the UN Security Council meeting on October 25.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu walks along Red Square during the Victory Day military parade on May 9, 2022 in Moscow.

Ukraine, the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union and NATO strongly denied Russia’s claims, accusing Moscow of trying to conduct its own false flag operation.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a speech late on October 23 that “everyone understands everything well and understands who is the source of all imaginable filth in this war.”

The White House said on October 24 that it was “monitoring as best we can” possible preparations for the use of dirty bombs in Ukraine, but saw nothing to suggest such weapons would be used soon.

The UN nuclear watchdog announced on October 24 that it would send inspectors to two nuclear sites in Ukraine after accepting a request from Kyiv authorities.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is “aware of Russia’s statement on Sunday that it conducted activities at two Ukrainian nuclear sites,” the agency’s website said.

The IAEA has not reported the location of the two objects.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba tweeted on October 24, “Unlike Russia, Ukraine has always been and still is transparent. “We have nothing to hide.”


Dirty bomb explosions are caused by conventional explosives. A nuclear explosion occurs as a result of a nuclear reaction, such as the atomic bomb dropped by the United States on Japan in World War II.

A fact sheet from the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) states, “Nuclear bombs produce explosions thousands of times more powerful than conventional explosives that can be used in dirty bombs.”

A nuclear explosion can flatten entire cities. For example, the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki in 1945 by ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, destroyed 2.6 square miles, or 6.2 square kilometers, of the city. Conventional explosives in dirty bombs can flatten and damage only a few buildings.

Meanwhile, the mushroom cloud from a nuclear explosion could cover tens to hundreds of square miles and spread fine particles of nuclear material, or radioactive material, over the area, DHS said.

According to DHS, most of the radioactive material from a dirty bomb would spread over several city blocks or several square miles.


In 1995, Chechen rebels planted a bomb in a Moscow park but failed to detonate, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

Terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda and ISIS have reportedly developed and attempted to develop dirty bombs, but none have been detonated.

According to the DHS, it is unlikely that a dirty bomb would emit high enough doses of radiation to cause “direct health effects or death in large numbers of people.”

The Texas Department of Health Services explains why.

Creating a dirty bomb capable of delivering deadly radiation would require extensive lead or steel shielding to prevent the material from killing its creators during construction, he said.

But using such shielding materials would make the bomb bulky, difficult to transport and deploy, require heavy equipment and remote control, and would limit the spread of radiation, the Texas state agency said.

According to the Texas Department of Health, the radiation from a dirty bomb would have the same level of exposure as a dental X-ray.

“It’s like crushing a rock. If someone throws a large rock at you, it could hurt you and cause physical harm,” the department explained. “If they take the same rock, break it up into grains of sand, and then they throw sand at you, it’s much less likely to cause you any real harm. will be.”

According to DHS, the severity of radiation sickness is affected by exposure over time. Prevention can be as simple as walking away.

“Walking even a short distance from the site of an explosion can provide significant protection because the dose decreases dramatically with distance from the source,” DHS said.

People should also cover their noses and mouths to avoid ingesting radiation, go indoors to avoid dust, wrap their clothes in plastic bags, and wash their skin gently to remove contaminants, DHS said.


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