Nonetheless, it prompted a coordinated public response from the United States and its allies.
In a joint statement on Monday morning, the United States, Britain and France rejected Shoigu’s accusations and “any pretext for escalation by Russia”. Separately, Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the allegations “demonstrably false.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov hit back at those statements on Monday, saying the threat of a “dirty bomb” was “obvious”, regardless of the doubts of Kyiv’s allies. In a lengthy update on Monday, Russia’s Defense Ministry said Ukraine had the scientific, technological and industrial capability to create a “dirty bomb” to further discredit Russia around the world.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also denied Shoigu’s claims in a video address on Sunday, adding that Shoigu’s “phone carousel” with Kyiv allies was not very convincing.
“If Russia calls and says Ukraine is supposed to prepare something, it means one thing: Russia has already prepared it,” he said.
Kyiv said on Monday that Russia was engaging in “nuclear blackmail” adding that he was open to follow-up missions.
The Kremlin has established an established warning pattern regarding so-called “false flag” operations by Ukraine and its allies.
The United States said in January that Russia was engaging in such a scheme in eastern Ukraine to try to justify a full-scale invasion. This is exactly what Moscow did in preparation for its February 24 assault, and later accused Ukraine and its allies of planning biological and nuclear provocations in order to blame Russia.
Moscow’s latest accusations offered few details. But generally speaking, a “dirty bomb” can be defined as a conventional explosive with added radiological material, according to the Washington-based Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. Its deployment could threaten tens of thousands of people and contaminate the affected area for up to 50 years, a Russian nuclear official was quoted by the official Tass news agency as saying on Monday. NBC News could not verify the claims.
Some analysts have pointed to Shoigu’s call rush as a potentially troubling sign.