Ukraine’s defence minister says he thinks Russia is trying to “blackmail” the world into negotiations by raising the spectre of a dirty bomb.
Speaking to reporters in Kyiv, Oleksii Reznikov claimed the Russian government was trying to distract from the failure of his country’s military mobilisation, and also to stop Western nations from suppling armaments and equipment to Ukraine.
Earlier this week, Sergei Shoigu, the Russian defence minister, claimed Ukraine was preparing to use a dirty bomb (a combination of explosive and radioactive material) on its own territory as a way of discrediting Russia.
He presented no evidence and his claim was immediately denied by Ukraine, Britain, America and NATO, among others.
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Now Mr Reznikov has claimed that Russia’s ambition is simply to create a sense of anxiety as a precursor to negotiations that, presumably, would allow Russia to keep land it has seized illegally.
“You can try to hear them – Lavrov, Shoigu and others,” said Mr Reznikov.
“All Kremlin gangsters trying to deliver [the message] to your capitals that they are ready for negotiation.
“It’s interesting because they see that the mobilisation campaign is a big fail for them. They’re trying to find a new solution for their interests.
“And I think that they’re trying to stop your countries from supporting Ukraine, to stop delivering new weaponry, to stop making Ukraine more efficient.”
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What is a dirty bomb? When asked about the possibility of a negotiated settlement, he told Sky News that that there was to be “no bargaining nor any payment by the land to keep face for the Kremlin”.
But he added that a deal was possible probably during the first seven years after the occupation, citing the British-Chinese agreement over Hong Kong as a model that might have worked.
“But on this moment, no,” he said. “We have an absolutely understandable plan to liberate all our territories. It’s clear.”
Mr Reznikov also suggested that Russia could have taken radioactive material from either Chernobyl or Zaporizhzhia nuclear plants to use in the construction of a dirty bomb, a prospect that he said “worried” him.
He said he didn’t think Russia would use nuclear weapons, largely because of the fury it would provoke from countries such as India and China. And he repeated his call for international partners to supply Ukraine with more air defence systems as an urgent priority.