UN nuclear watchdog to inspect sites in Ukraine over ‘dirty bomb’ claims

Russia claims Ukraine is set to strike with a bomb laced with radioactive material

Aisha Rimi
Tuesday 25 October 2022 19:34 BST
Related video: Ukrainians queue for water after Russians cut off city’s main supply

The UN’s nuclear watchdog is to send an expert team to visit two Ukrainian sites at Kyiv’s request, in an apparent reaction to Russian claims that Ukraine could deploy a “dirty bomb”.

The International Atomic Energy Agency’s announcement followed allegations by a senior Russian officer that two institutes in Ukraine linked to the nuclear industry were engaged in preparations to produce such a bomb.

Known as weapons of mass disruption, a dirty bomb combines a conventional explosive with radioactive material. They bear no relation to a nuclear bomb and do not release enough radiation to kill people or cause severe health issues, but tend to be used as a means of stirring up fear and mass panic among targets.

The agency said both sites were already subject to its inspections and one was inspected a month ago, with the IAEA director general Rafael Grossi saying that “no undeclared nuclear activities or material were found there”.

“The International Atomic Energy Agency is aware of statements made by the Russian Federation on Sunday about alleged activities at two nuclear locations in Ukraine,” the IAEA said in a statement on Monday.

“The IAEA is preparing to visit the locations in the coming days. The purpose of the safeguards visits is to detect any possible undeclared nuclear activities and material.”

Russian media quoted Lieutenant General Igor Kirillov, head of Russia’s nuclear, biological and chemical protection troops, telling a briefing: “According to the information we have, two organisations in Ukraine are under concrete instructions to create a so-called dirty bomb.”

However, Moscow is yet to provide any evidence for this claim. Russia’s state news agency RIA had earlier identified what it said were the two sites involved in the operation – the Eastern Mineral Enrichment Plant in central Dnipropetrovsk region and the Institute for Nuclear Research in Kyiv. The IAEA did not name the facilities it would be inspecting.

Russia was due to raise its dirty bomb accusation at the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday.

Russia’s UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzia urges the United Nations to ‘prevent this heinous crime from happening’
Russia’s UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzia urges the United Nations to ‘prevent this heinous crime from happening’ (Reuters)

In a letter addressed to UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres and the Security Council, Russia’s UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said they would regard Kyiv’s use of a dirty bomb as “an act of nuclear terrorism”.

“We urge the Western countries to exert their influence on the regime in Kyiv to abandon its dangerous plans threatening international peace and security,” he wrote. “We call on the secretary-general of the United Nations to do everything in his power to prevent this heinous crime from happening.”

Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said earlier in the day that he had spoken to Mr Grossi and urged him to “send experts to peaceful facilities in Ukraine which Russia deceitfully claims to be developing a dirty bomb. He agreed.”

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