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Western countries say Russia could plan 'dirty bomb' pretext

Western countries say Russia could plan 'dirty bomb' pretext

World

Russia has started a new campaign using long-range cruise missiles.

KYIV (Reuters) - Western countries accused Russia on Monday of plotting to use a threat of a bomb laced with nuclear material as a pretext for escalation in Ukraine, as Moscow evacuated civilians from a southern city in anticipation of a major battle.

With Ukrainian forces advancing into Russian-occupied Kherson province, Russia’s defence minister Sergei Shoigu phoned Western counterparts on Sunday to tell them Moscow suspected Kyiv of planning to use a so-called "dirty bomb".

In a joint statement, the foreign ministers of France, Britain and the United States said they had all rejected the allegations and reaffirmed their support for Ukraine against Russia.

"Our countries made clear that we all reject Russia’s transparently false allegations that Ukraine is preparing to use a dirty bomb on its own territory," they said. "The world would see through any attempt to use this allegation as a pretext for escalation."

In an overnight address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the Russian accusation was a sign Moscow was planning such an attack itself and would blame Ukraine.

"If Russia calls and says that Ukraine is allegedly preparing something, it means one thing: Russia has already prepared all this," Zelenskiy said.

"So when today the Russian Minister of Defense organises a phone carousel and calls foreign ministers with stories about the so-called ‘dirty’ nuclear bomb, everyone understands everything well. Understands who is the source of everything dirty that can be imagined in this war."

EVACUATION

Russia has ordered civilians to evacuate territory it controls on the western bank of the Dnipro River, where Ukrainian forces have been advancing since the start of this month shortly after Moscow claimed to have annexed the area.

A Russian defeat there would be one of Moscow’s biggest setbacks of the war. Kherson’s regional capital is the only big city Russia has captured intact since the invasion in February, and its only foothold on the west bank of the Dnipro, which bisects Ukraine. The province controls the gateway to Crimea, the peninsula Russia seized and claimed to annex in 2014.

The Russian-installed authorities in Kherson announced on Monday that men who stay behind would have the option of joining a military self-defence unit. Kyiv accuses Russia of press-ganging men in occupied areas into military formations, a war crime under the Geneva Conventions.

Since his forces suffered major battlefield defeats in September, President Vladimir Putin has escalated the war, calling up hundreds of thousands of reservists, announcing the annexation of occupied territory and repeatedly threatening to use nuclear weapons to defend Russian land.

This month, Russia has started a new campaign using long-range cruise missiles and Iranian-made drones to attack Ukraine’s electric power and heat ahead of winter.




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