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


Russia accuses Ukraine of planning to use a so-called dirty bomb, an allegation dismissed by Kiev and its Western allies as a false flag operation that Moscow could use as a pretext to escalate the Kremlin’s war against his neighbor.

A dirty bomb is a weapon that combines conventional explosives such as dynamite and radioactive material such as uranium. It is often referred to as a weapon for terrorists, not countries, as it is designed to spread fear and panic more than eliminate any military targets.

Ukrainian officials have repeatedly denied Moscow’s accusations and Kiev’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 there are scientific institutions in Ukraine that house the technology needed to create a dirty bomb – and accuses Kiev of planning to use it.

The Russian Defense Ministry said in a briefing on October 24 that it has information showing that Kiev is planning a provocation related to the detonation 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 thus launch a powerful anti-Russian campaign in the world aimed at undermining confidence in Moscow,” he said. said Igor Kirillov, head of Russia’s Radiation. , Chemical and Biological Protection Forces.

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

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

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

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

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

“Everyone understands everything well, they understand who is the source of all the ugly that can be imagined in this war,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his address at night on October 23.

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

On October 24, the UN nuclear watchdog said it would send inspectors to visit two nuclear sites in Ukraine after receiving a request to do so from authorities in Kiev.

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

The IAEA has not given 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 remains transparent. We have nothing to hide.”


The explosion of a dirty bomb is generated by conventional explosives. The explosion of a nuclear weapon is generated by a nuclear reaction, like the atomic bombs that the United States dropped on Japan in World War II.

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

The explosion of a nuclear weapon can flatten entire cities. For example, the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki in 1945 obliterated 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 only flatten or damage a few buildings.

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

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


In 1995, Chechen rebels planted but failed to detonate one 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 built or attempted to build a dirty bomb, but none has ever been detonated.

The DHS says it would be unlikely that a dirty bomb could deliver high enough doses of radiation “to cause immediate health effects or fatalities in large numbers of people.”

The Texas Department of State Health Services explains why.

To make a dirty bomb capable of delivering deadly doses of radiation, a large amount of shielding from lead or steel would be needed to keep the material from killing its makers during construction, he says.

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

The radiation generated by a dirty bomb causes similar levels of exposure to the amount received during dental X-rays, according to Texas Health Services.

“It’s like breaking a rock. If someone threw a big rock at you, it would probably hurt you and cause you physical damage,” explains the department. “If they take the same rock and break it into grains of sand and then throw the sand at you, the likelihood of taking out any real damage is significantly lower.”

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

“Walking even a short distance from the (explosion) scene could provide significant protection since the dose rate drops dramatically with distance from the source,” says DHS.

People should also cover their nose and mouth to avoid ingesting any radiation, enter the house to escape any cloud of dust, discard their clothes in a plastic bag and then gently wash their skin to remove pollutants, says the DHS.


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