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


Russia is accusing Ukraine of planning to use the so-called dirty bomb, a charge dismissed by Kyiv and its Western allies as a false-flag operation that Moscow sees as escalating the Kremlin’s war against its neighbor. can use as an excuse for

A dirty bomb is a weapon that combines conventional explosives such as dynamite with radioactive materials such as uranium. It is often called a weapon for terrorists, not nations, because it is designed to instill fear and terror rather than eliminate any military objective.

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

Here’s what you need to know.

Without providing any evidence, Moscow claims that Ukraine has scientific institutes that possess the technology needed to build a dirty bomb – and accuses Kyiv of planning to use it.

The Russian Defense Ministry said in a briefing on October 24 that it had information indicating that Kyiv was planning a provocation related to the detonation of a dirty bomb.

Russia’s head of radiation, Igor Kirillov, claimed, “The purpose of this provocation is to accuse Russia of using weapons of mass destruction in the Ukrainian theater of operations and thus to undermine confidence in Moscow in a way that is aimed at the world.” to launch a powerful anti-Russian campaign.” , chemical and biological protection forces.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu made the claim in a call with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on October 23, according to a US official familiar with the talks.

Shoigu also made similar comments to his French and British counterparts.

According to Reuters, Russia plans to raise its allegations against Ukraine at the UN Security Council on October 25.

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

Russia’s accusations have been strongly denied by Ukraine, the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union and NATO, which in turn have accused Moscow of trying to launch its own false-flag operation.

“Everyone understands everything very well, understands who is the source of every dirt in this war that can be imagined,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly address on October 23.

The White House said on October 24 that it was monitoring “as best we can” any potential preparations for the use of a dirty bomb in Ukraine but saw nothing to indicate the imminent use of such a weapon.

The United Nations nuclear watchdog said on October 24 that it would send inspectors to visit two nuclear sites in Ukraine after receiving a request to do so from officials in Kyiv.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said it was “aware of statements made by the Russian Federation on Sunday regarding alleged activities at two nuclear sites in Ukraine,” according to a news release on the agency’s website.

The IAEA did not give the location of the two sites.

In a tweet on October 24, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said: “Unlike Russia, Ukraine has always been and has been transparent. We have nothing to hide. ”


The explosion from a dirty bomb is produced by conventional explosives. The explosion from a nuclear weapon is produced by a nuclear reaction, such as the atomic bombs dropped by the US on Japan in World War II.

According to a fact sheet from the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), “A nuclear bomb creates an explosion that is thousands to millions of times more powerful than any conventional explosive that could be used in a dirty bomb.”

A nuclear explosion can level entire cities. For example, according to ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki in 1945 obliterated 2.6 square miles (6.2 square kilometers) of the city. Conventional explosives in a dirty bomb can only level or damage some buildings.

Meanwhile, the mushroom cloud from a nuclear explosion can cover tens to hundreds of square miles, spreading fine particles of nuclear material — radioactive fallout — over that area, DHS says.

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


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

There have been reports that terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda or ISIS have made or attempted to make dirty bombs, but no explosions have ever occurred.

DHS says it is unlikely that a dirty bomb could deliver high doses of radiation “to cause immediate health effects or deaths in large numbers of people.”

The Texas Department of State Health Services explains why.

It says that to build a dirty bomb capable of delivering lethal doses of radiation, large amounts of shielding from lead or steel would be needed to prevent the material from killing its makers during construction.

But using such shielding material would make the bomb bulky and difficult to move or deploy, possibly requiring heavy equipment and remote handling tools, and would limit how far radiation could spread, according to the Texas state agency. is, according to the Texas state agency.

According to Texas Health Services, the radiation produced by a dirty bomb would cause exposure equal to the amount received during a dental X-ray.

“It’s like breaking a rock. If someone throws a large rock at you, it could cause injury and cause bodily harm,” the department says. “If they take the same rock and break it into grains of sand. And then they throw sand at you, so it’s much less likely to do you any real damage.”

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

“Walking a short distance from the scene (of an explosion) can provide significant protection because the dose rate decreases dramatically with distance from the source,” says DHS.

DHS says people should cover their noses and mouths to avoid ingesting any radiation, go indoors to avoid any dust clouds, put their clothes in plastic bags and Then wash your skin gently to remove the dirt.


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