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FACT CHECK REPORT

Chloe Bissett, Counter Threat Strategic Communications (CTSC) Team

Christie Hui, Editor

Week of Monday, October 24, 2022


International Atomic Energy Agency Flag[1]


Claim: Lieutenant General Igor Kirillov, head of Russia's nuclear, biological, and chemical protection, claimed that two Ukrainian nuclear sites were instructed to prepare “dirty bombs” to use against Ukrainian territory. Russian media reported these sites were the Eastern Mineral Enrichment Plant in the Dnipropetrovsk region and the Institute for Nuclear Research in Kyiv.[2] Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu claimed in private calls to foreign leaders and the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) that the use of a dirty bomb would be an act of nuclear terrorism.[3]

Facts:

  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has stated that the accusations made by Russia are false.[4]

  • At the request of the Ukrainian government, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is preparing to visit the two Ukrainian sites accused of preparing nuclear bombs.[5] The IAEA visited one of the accused sites one month ago and found no evidence of the production of dirty bombs, the mishandling of nuclear weapons, or undeclared nuclear weapons.[6]

  • Defense Minister Shoigu has called the British, American, French, and Turkish foreign ministers regarding the threat of Ukrainian dirty bombs.[7]

Analysis & Implications:

  • The Russian government likely wanted to reduce the amount of Western military aid being given to Ukraine by increasing suspicion of nuclear misconduct. Shoigu’s phone calls to leaders of NATO countries were very likely an attempt to weaken the NATO alliance supporting Ukraine.

  • Russia is likely spreading false narratives regarding Ukraine and nuclear weapons to deflect attention from its military conduct as there has been increased Western suspicion that Russia is planning to detonate a dirty bomb in Ukraine, and blame it on Ukrainian forces. It is unlikely that Russia will detonate a dirty bomb, due to the international ramifications that the use of such a weapon would bring, including increased economic sanctions against Russia. It is almost certain that using a nuclear weapon would draw NATO forces into the active conflict, likely inciting retaliatory attacks.

  • It is very unlikely that the Ukrainian government would order the creation of dirty bombs or unsanctioned nuclear weapons. The Ukrainian use of nuclear weapons would almost certainly destroy the Ukrainian narrative of Ukraine as a victim defending its territory from Russian aggression. The use of a nuclear weapon would very likely reduce the international support for Ukraine from organizations, such as NATO, due to the laws and agreements that govern the use of nuclear weapons.

Verdict: FALSE

 

[1]Flag of IAEA” by IAEA licensed under Public Domain

[2] IAEA preparing to inspect two sites in Ukraine over 'dirty bomb' claims, Reuters, October 2022, https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/iaea-preparing-inspect-two-sites-ukraine-over-dirty-bomb-claims-2022-10-24/

[3] What is a ‘dirty bomb’ and why is Russia saying Ukraine could use one?, BBC News, October 2022, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-63373637

[4] Russia brings Ukraine 'dirty bomb' warning to U.N. as it evacuates Kherson, Reuters, October 2022, https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/russia-hits-ukraine-homes-evacuates-kherson-warns-escalation-2022-10-24/

[5] Safeguards Inspectors to Visit Two Nuclear Locations in Ukraine, IAEA’s Grossi Says After Receiving Request from Ukraine, International Atomic Energy Agency, October 2022, https://www.iaea.org/newscenter/pressreleases/safeguards-inspectors-to-visit-two-nuclear-locations-in-ukraine-iaeas-grossi-says-after-receiving-request-from-ukraine

[6] Ibid

[7] What is a ‘dirty bomb’ and why is Russia saying Ukraine could use one?, BBC News, October 2022, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-63373637

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