Russian accusations that Ukraine could be preparing “dirty bomb” attacks should not be dismissed


Ukraine has a history of employing a provocation modus operation and many Russian allegations initially ridiculed have been proved true. Writes Uriel Araujo

Moscow has accused Kiev of planning to set off a so-called “dirty bomb”, that is, a conventional explosive device that, upon detonation, spreads radioactive dust. Moreover, it accuses Ukraine of planning to blame the explosion on the Russians. Kiev and Washington in turn have accused Russia of fabricating the claim altogether and planning to use it as a justification to employ nuclear weapons against Ukraine. In addition, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba stated during a October 25 briefing that he suspects Russia itself could use such a “dirty bomb” in a false-flag of its own. Considering that both NATO and Moscow are conducting nuclear exercises, tensions are quite high.

Amid a heated information war going on, the general public and even experts can have a hard time trying to make sense of all this. In any case, Russian allegations should not be dismissed as unlikely or as “fake news” or a “conspiracy theory” (CT). In today’s world, “conspiracy theorist” (just like “fascist” or “terrorist”) may refer to just about anyone. Such labels are quite often employed as an accusatory category and are thus weaponized.

One should remember that on February 3, during a press briefing, US State Department spokesman Ned Price accused the Kremlin of planning to “create a false flag operation to initiate military activity” which would include producing a “propaganda video” with “false explosions” and “crisis actors  pretending to be mourners.” By casually referring to the existence of such things as “crisis actors” and “false flag attacks” (something which Washington always described as a CT), Price got a lot of criticism: Associated Press journalist Matt Lee said he was going into “Alex Jones territory”, referring to the controversial American  radio show host.

No such Russian false flag attack occurred back then, of course, and the curent conflict started on February 24 with Russian military operations on Ukraine after Kiev started a nasty bombing campaign on the Donbass region on Februrary 18, targeting its own population (from Ukrainev’s perspective), that is, the population living in the very territories it claims as its own. A kindergarten in the Stanytsia Luganska town was bombed, among 47 points, causing the deaths of civilians. On February 22, an El Pais piece detailed the Donbass humanitarian crisis, and on February 24, CNN reported that the Ukrainian military had “destroyed” a large part of the region, thus flooding Rostov Oblast (Russian Federation) with refugees. The week before that, Moscow had in fact withdrawn troops from the border region, which should have de-escalated tensions. One will however have a hard time finding these reports among the flood of news about the crisis in the English-language press, which make these episodes become “non-events”.

Donbass has indeed been under Ukrainian artillery for 8 years, as Kiev has routinely broken cease-fires and shelled civilian areas and infrastructure, while pursuing chauvinistic ethno-linguistic policies against Russians.

According to Western media, Russia is a kind of rogue state with zero credibility. Its allegations about Kiev using “human shields” were much ridiculed and yet an August Amnesty International’s report exposed the fact that the Ukrainian forces had indeed been violating the rules of war and placing schools, and hospitals in harm’s ways, by employing human shield tactics. Kiev has continued to target civilians and residential areas in Donbass, using US-supplied HIMARS MLRS. Ukraine has also been known to gather information about chemical facilities in the same region. For what purpose?

Over 7 years ago, a Guardian piece described Azov fighters as Ukraine’s “greatest weapon” in Mariupol in 2014 and 2015, and properly described them as having neo-Nazi “leanings”. Nothing changed, and yet Russian “denazification” aims were also mocked this year while the very existence of neo-Nazism in Ukraine’s forces was minimized or denied until it became too much of an embarrassment to the West: one cannot photoshop away all the swastikas. As the cult of Zelensky started to wear off, Kiev’s atrocious human rights records started to re-emerge in Western press.

The very existence of the so-called Ukrainian “biolabs” was firstly denied and then minimized until even the New York Post admitted it. Today no one denies that controversial Ukrainian laboratories are military-operated and there is a complete lack of American and Ukrainian transparency on the matter. Already in March, a RFI piece by scientist Jan van der Made concluded that the Americans should “provide more transparency on the project.”

Now the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has stated the Kremlin has “concrete information regarding Ukrainian scientific institutes having technologies which allow them to make a dirty bomb.” On October 25, Moscow took its accusation to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), during a closed-door meeting with the 15-members body. These are serious allegations and should not be promptly dismissed. Neither should Russian warnings about the risk of a nuclear conflict.

It is true that nuclear deterrence is a complex mind game. According to S K Saini, a former vice-chief of the Indian Army Staff, the current Russian-Ukraine conflict is actually a kind of “limited war” because the stated aims of both sides are in fact restricted.  He argues that raising the risk of nuclear exchanges as a way to put pressure on the other side to seek negotiation or to de-escalate its actions would be a tactic that fits well in the context of such limited conflicts. Other experts disagree, though. Moscow is not “bluffing” about the risk of nuclear war because it actually feels endangered by the US own nuclear threats, which in turn are a part of a rhetoric trend that has been evolving since the beginning of the current conflict, as I have written before.

US-supported Ukraine’s modus operandi for the last years has been to employ provocations. The problem with provocations is that sometimes they can become self-fulfilling prophecies.


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