WHAT KREMLIN PROPAGANDISTS SAY:
Russia claims that Ukraine is preparing a so-called ‘dirty bomb’, a conventional munition containing radioactive material. According to Lieutenant General Igor Kirillov, the commander of Russia’s radiological, chemical, and biological protection troops, Ukraine is “at the final stage” of preparing such a weapon. Russia has warned that this amounts to a ‘provocation’ and may lead to an escalation of the conflict. Secretary of Russia’s Security Council Nikolay Patrushev said that “Ukraine is carrying out work to create a ‘dirty’ nuclear charge. We believe that this process is taking place with the participation of Western patrons”.
Kremlin propagandists claim that the use of ‘radioactive’ depleted-Uranium shells by Ukraine is part of a ‘dangerous’ trend that could lead to the deployment of more extreme weapons.
Disinformation actors assert that these shells are highly radioactive and will have a severe health and environmental impact in Ukraine. Russia has devoted intense media attention to these shells with exposés on the ‘shipments of poisonous substances.’
Pro-Kremlin media coverage creates hysteria over the potential escalation of the war through the use of ‘dirty bombs.’ In its most extreme form, the disinformation narrative claims that in the face of defeat, the West will push for the use of weapons of mass destruction to regain control of areas such as the Donbas.
WHAT ARE THE FACTS:
The claim that ‘Ukraine is preparing a dirty bomb’ is entirely unsubstantiated. Ukraine does not have any atomic weapons and has no programs to acquire them. The country has signed the Agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for the Application of Safeguards in Connection with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and Protocol Additional to the Agreement between Ukraine and the International Atomic Energy Agency for the Application of Safeguards in Connection with the Treaty on the NonProliferation of Nuclear Weapons The three operational nuclear power plants in Ukraine have been inspected throughout the conflict by independent organisations including the UN  . In response to allegations that they are preparing a ‘dirty bomb', Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba stated that Russia’s claims were “as absurd as they are dangerous” and noted that “Russians often accuse others of what they plan themselves.”
The disinformation narrative focuses heavily on the use of depleted uranium shells. However, the shells in question contain only trace amounts of depleted uranium and there is no evidence that they have any health impact. The use of depleted uranium is not prohibited and is incomparable to the use of nuclear weapons or ‘dirty bombs,’ which use enriched uranium. Conflating these substances is a form of deception and scaremongering which Russian state media have been perpetuating since the beginning of the full-fledged invasion.
The intention behind this narrative is to create an image of Ukraine as an aggressor. Such rhetoric can be described as little more than sabre-rattling on Russia’s part. The purpose of the narrative is to create a false sense of threat in its audience by portraying Ukraine as escalatory and as the aggressor - when in reality, the opposite is true . The narrative is linked with the notion that the war in ‘Ukraine is a proxy war’ and that escalation may come from the West. By accusing Ukraine of preparing to use illegal dirty bombs, Russia lays the ground to justify its own escalatory behaviour to a domestic audience.
Debunker is a series of disinformation-busting articles from Debunk.org which focus on dispelling the harmful lies and propaganda being pushed by pro-Kremlin sources. Check out the rest of the series at debunk.org/debunker.