But the Pentagon has seen no indication that Moscow is immediately preparing to deploy a nuclear, chemical or biological weapon, including the use of its own dirty bomb, a senior military official told reporters on Monday. The official, like others quoted for this story, requested anonymity in order to discuss internal deliberations.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu had a series of phone calls with his counterparts in the US, France, UK and Turkey over the weekend to discuss the allegations, but leaders Westerners rejected his claims, officials said.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke twice by phone with Shoigu, once on Friday and Sunday. During Sunday’s call, Austin “dismissed any pretense of Russian escalation,” according to a reading by Pentagon press secretary Brig. General Pat Ryder.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy echoed that sentiment, saying Russia is “the source of everything that can be dirty in this war.”
On Monday, Russian Chief of Staff General Valery Gerasimov also spoke by telephone with US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley and separately with British Admiral Sir Antony Radakin , according to the Russian Defense Ministry.
The Russian ministry doubled down on its allegations on Monday, posting a video of Lt. Gen. Igor Kirillov, head of the Russian Armed Forces’ Radiation, Chemical and Biological Defense Forces, on Telegram. In the video, Kirillov informed that Kyiv was planning a false flag operation that would involve the launching of a dirty bomb or a low-powered nuclear warhead on its own soil.
“The detonation of a radiological explosive device will inevitably lead to radioactive contamination of the area over an area of up to several thousand square meters,” Kirillov said during a briefing on radiation protection threats, according to Russian media.
Another MoD Telegram post alleged without evidence that two organizations in Ukraine were “directly ordered” to create the dirty bomb.
Russian forces have activated a specialized unit to protect against a possible chemical, biological or nuclear attack, the Defense Ministry announced on Telegram.
“The Ministry of Defense has taken steps to counter possible provocations by Ukraine: assets and forces are alerted to operate in the midst of radioactive contamination,” according to the message.
The activation is “the kind of thing they would do while waiting for the imminent use of[weaponsofmassdestruction”saidSamuelCharapoftheRANDCorp[weaponsofmassdestruction”SamuelCharapoftheRANDCorpsaid[armesdedestructionmassive”adéclaréSamuelCharapdelaRANDCorp[weaponsofmassdestruction”SamuelCharapoftheRANDCorpsaid
The Defense Department statements are “worrying”, a senior US administration official said.
The back-and-forth comes as Ukraine prepares for a new offensive to retake the southern city of Kherson, amid reports that Russia is setting conditions for a withdrawal from the strategic city. Russian forces are focused on strengthening their defensive position around Kherson, the senior military official said.
Meanwhile, US officials expect to see a shipment of Iranian surface-to-surface missiles to Russia for use in Ukraine “soon”, according to a senior Defense Ministry official.
Alexander Ward contributed to this report.