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


Russia accuses Ukraine of planning to use so-called dirty bombs, a charge that Kyiv and its Western allies dismiss as a false accusation that Moscow can use as a pretext to escalate the conflict. Kremlin to its neighbors.

A dirty bomb is a weapon that combines conventional explosives such as dynamite and radioactive materials such as uranium. It is often referred to as a weapon of terrorism, not of the nation, because it is designed to spread fear and anxiety more than to eliminate any military targets.

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 evidence, Moscow says a scientific institution in Ukraine is developing the technology needed to create a dirty bomb – and accuses Kyiv of planning to use it.

The Russian Ministry of Defense said in a speech on October 24 that it has information indicating that Kyiv is planning a provocation related to the explosion of a dirty bomb.

“The purpose of this provocation is to accuse Russia of using weapons of mass destruction in the Ukrainian theater of operations and thereby launch a powerful anti-Russian campaign worldwide aimed at undermining the credibility of “Moscow,” said Igor Kirillov, head of Russian Radio. , Chemical and biological immunity.

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

Shoigu made similar comments to his French and English friends.

Russia plans to raise its charges against Ukraine at the United Nations Security Council on October 25, according to Reuters.

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

Ukraine, the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union and NATO have denied Russia’s accusations, which have accused Moscow of trying to plant its false flag.

“Everybody knows everything, knows who is the source of all the dirty things imaginable in this war,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly address on October 23.

The White House said on October 24 that it was “monitoring to the best of our ability” possible preparations for the use of crude bombs in Ukraine but saw nothing to indicate the imminent use of such weapons.

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

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

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

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


An explosion from a dirty bomb is the result of a conventional explosion. An explosion from a nuclear weapon is the result of a nuclear reaction, such as the atomic bomb dropped by the United States on Japan in World War II.

“A nuclear bomb produces an explosion that is thousands to millions of times more powerful than a conventional explosive used in a dirty bomb,” according to a report from the Department of Defense. (DHS) in the United States.

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

At the same time, the mushroom cloud from a nuclear explosion can cover tens to hundreds of square miles, spreading nuclear particles – radioactive fallout – in that area, said the DHS.

Most of the radioactive material from a dirty bomb would be spread over a few cities or a few miles, according to DHS.


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

There have been reports that terrorist organizations such as al Qaeda or ISIS have built or attempted to build dirty bombs, but none have exploded so far.

DHS said it is unlikely that a dirty bomb could deliver high levels of radiation “to cause immediate health effects or significant mortality.”

The Texas Department of State Health Services explains why.

To make a dirty bomb capable of sending out deadly radiation, a lot of shielding from lead or iron is needed so that the maker doesn’t die during construction, he said.

But using such a shield would make the bomb bulky and difficult to move or deploy, would require heavy equipment and remote handling equipment, and would limit the range of radiation, according to the Texas state agency.

The radiation produced by the dirty bomb can cause exposure equal to the amount received during a dental X-ray, according to the Texas Department of Health.

“It’s like breaking a rock. If someone throws a big stone at you, it can hurt and it can cause physical harm to you,” the department explained. “If they just take a stone and break it into sand and then throw the sand at you, the chance of harm to you is very low.”

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

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

People should also cover their noses and mouths to avoid exposure to radiation, go indoors to avoid dust clouds, dispose of clothing in plastic bags and wash their skin gently to remove contaminants, DHS said. .


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