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


Russia has accused Ukraine of planning to use the so-called dirty bomb, a claim Kyiv and its Western allies 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 usually referred to as a weapon for terrorists, not countries, because it is designed to spread fear more than to destroy any military objective.

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

Here’s what you need to know.

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

The Ministry of Defense of Russia said in a briefing on October 24 that it has information that the Hoki from Kyiv is planning a provocation related to the explosion of a dirty bomb.

Igor Kirillov, the head of Russia’s Radiation Agency, claimed: “The purpose of this provocation is to accuse Russia of using weapons of mass destruction in the Ukrainian theater of operations, and thus launch a powerful anti-Russian campaign in the world, which aims to destroy confidence in Moscow. “. , Chemical and biological defense forces.

According to a US official familiar with the conversation, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu made the statement on October 23 in a call with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

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

According to the Reuters news agency, Russia plans to present its accusations against Ukraine at the UN Security Council on October 25.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu is escorted from Red Square during the Victory Day military parade in Moscow, May 9, 2022.

Ukraine, the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union and NATO categorically rejected Russia’s claims, which in turn accused Moscow of trying to launch its own false flag operation.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi said in his nightly message on October 23: “Everyone understands everything very well, who is the source of all the dirty things imaginable in this war.”

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

The UN nuclear watchdog said on October 24 that it will send inspectors to visit two nuclear sites in Ukraine after receiving a request from Kyiv authorities.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said it was “aware of the Russian Federation’s statement on Sunday regarding possible activities at two nuclear sites in Ukraine”.

The IAEA did not specify the location of these two sites.

Dmitry Kuleba, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, said in a tweet on October 24: “Unlike Russia, Ukraine has always been and remains transparent. We have nothing to hide.”


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

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

An explosion from a nuclear weapon can flatten entire cities. For example, the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki in 1945 destroyed 2.6 square kilometers (6.2 square miles) of the city, according to ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. Conventional explosives in a dirty bomb can level or destroy only a few buildings.

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

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


According to the Council on Foreign Relations, Chechen rebels detonated one in a Moscow park in 1995, but failed to detonate it.

It has been reported that terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda and ISIS have made or attempted to make dirty bombs, but none of them have been detonated.

DHS says it is unlikely that a single dirty bomb could deliver enough radiation to “immediately affect the health or death of large numbers of people.”

The Texas Department of Health Services explains why.

It is said that to make a dirty bomb capable of delivering a lethal dose of radiation, a large amount of shielding of lead or steel is needed to keep the material from killing its makers during construction.

But using such shielding materials would make the bomb bulky and difficult to transport or deploy, potentially requiring heavy equipment and remote handling equipment, and limiting how far the radiation could spread, according to the Texas state agency.

According to the Texas Department of Health, radiation from a dirty bomb is equivalent to the amount of exposure you get during dental x-rays.

“It’s like breaking a rock. If someone throws a large stone at you, it will probably hurt and may cause physical harm to you,” the department explains. “If they take that same rock, break it up into grains of sand, and then throw the sand at you, it’s likely to do you real damage.”

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

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

DHS says people should also cover their nose and mouth to avoid inhaling any radiation, go indoors to get rid of any dust clouds, throw their clothes in a plastic bag, and then wash their skin gently. remove contaminants.


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