Ukraine. Russian defense chief warns against ‘bomb’ provocation
Kyiv, Ukraine –
Russia’s defense chief alleged on Sunday that Ukraine was planning a « provocation » involving a radioactive device, a stark claim that reflected rising tensions as Moscow worked to stem Ukrainian advances in the south and build defensive positions in anticipation of Ukrainian offensives elsewhere.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu made the allegations in phone calls with his British, French and Turkish counterparts. He also spoke to US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on their second call in three days, but a terse Russian reading of that call did not say whether the dirty bomb allegation was also mentioned in their conversation.
The Russian Defense Ministry said Shoigu expressed concern about « possible Ukrainian provocations involving a ‘dirty bomb’, a device that uses explosives to disperse radioactive waste. It does not have the devastating effect from a nuclear explosion, but it could expose large areas to radioactive contamination.
Britain has firmly rejected the claims.
The UK Ministry of Defense said during its call with Defense Secretary Ben Wallace that Shoigu « alleged that Ukraine was planning actions facilitated by Western countries, including the UK, to escalate the conflict in Ukraine. « .
« The Secretary of Defense has refuted these claims and warned that such allegations should not be used as a pretext for further escalation, » the department said. « The Defense Secretary also reiterated the support of the UK and the international community for Ukraine and its desire to de-escalate this conflict. It is up to Ukraine and Russia to seek a solution to the war and the UK is ready to help. »
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak also dismissed Shoigu’s claims as « absolute and utterly predictable absurdity on the part of those who believe that they are blatantly lying and making people believe that ».
The French Ministry of the Armed Forces said that Choigou had told his counterpart, Sébastien Lecornu, that the situation in Ukraine was deteriorating rapidly and « tending to an uncontrollable escalation ».
Russian authorities have repeatedly advanced allegations that Ukraine may detonate a dirty bomb in a false flag attack and blame Moscow. The Ukrainian authorities, in turn, accused the Kremlin of developing such a plan.
The mention of the threat in Shoigu’s calls with his counterparts seems to indicate that the threat of such an attack has reached an unprecedented level.
« There seems to be a shared feeling that tensions have approached the level that could increase the real threat to all, » said Fyodor Lukyanov, the head of the Kremlin-linked Foreign and Defense Policy Council, a group of high level based in Moscow. Foreign affairs experts said in a comment on Shoigu’s phone calls.
Elsewhere, Russian authorities reported that they were building defensive positions in occupied areas of Ukraine and regions bordering Russia, reflecting fears that Ukrainian forces could attack along new sections of the front line of 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) of a war that is approaching its ninth month.
In recent weeks, Ukraine has focused its counter-offensive mainly on the Kherson region. Their relentless artillery strikes cut off major crossing points on the Dnieper River, which cut the southern region in two, leaving Russian troops on the western bank short of supplies and vulnerable to encirclement.
Kirill Stremousov, the deputy head of the Russian-installed regional administration in Kherson, said in a radio interview on Sunday that Russian defensive lines « have been strengthened and the situation has remained stable » as local authorities have strongly encouraged all the inhabitants of the capital of the region and the surrounding area. regions on Saturday to evacuate by ferry to the east bank of the river.
The region is one of four that Russian President Vladimir Putin illegally annexed last month and brought under Russian martial law on Thursday. The city of Kherson has been in Russian hands since the early days of the war, but Ukrainian forces have made progress in reclaiming it.
About 20,000 Kherson residents have moved to places on the eastern bank of the Dnieper River, the Kremlin-backed regional administration reported. Ukraine’s military said on Sunday that the Russian army had also withdrawn its officers from areas of the West Bank, leaving newly mobilized and inexperienced forces.
The Ukrainian claim could not be independently verified.
As Ukraine heads south after liberating the northern Kharkiv region last month, authorities in Russia’s western provinces bordering northeast Ukraine appeared nervous.
The governor of Russia’s Kursk region, Roman Starovoit, said on Sunday that two defensive lines had been built and a third would be completed by November 5.
Defensive lines have also been established in the Belgorod region, Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said. He posted photos on Saturday of lines of concrete blocks in the shape of a pyramid to block the movement of armored vehicles.
Other defensive positions are being built in the Lugansk region of eastern Ukraine, according to an announcement by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a millionaire Russian businessman nicknamed « Putin’s boss ». Prigozhin owns the Wagner Group, a mercenary military company that played a leading role in the war.
He said his company was building a « Wagner line » in the Luhansk region, another of the Ukrainian provinces illegally annexed by Putin last month. Prigozhin released images on Wednesday showing a section of newly constructed defenses and trench systems southeast of the city of Kreminna.
Britain’s Ministry of Defense said on Sunday that « the draft suggests that Russia is making a significant effort to prepare defenses in depth behind the current front line which are likely to deter any swift Ukrainian counter-offensive. »
Russian forces captured Luhansk several months ago. Pro-Moscow separatists declared independent republics in the region and neighboring Donetsk eight years ago, and Putin made control of both provinces a goal at the start of the war.
The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, said on Sunday that Russia’s latest strategy to target power plants appeared to be aimed at diminishing Ukrainians’ will to fight and forcing the government in Kyiv to devote more resources to the protection of civilians and energy infrastructure.
He said the effort was unlikely to harm Ukrainian morale, but would have significant economic impacts.
Nine regions across Ukraine, from Odessa in the southwest to Kharkiv in the northeast, have seen more attacks targeting energy and other critical infrastructure in the past day, the state said. Major of the Ukrainian army. He reported a total of 25 Russian airstrikes and more than 100 missile and artillery strikes around Ukraine.
Russian attacks have forced the emergency suspension of fertilizer production at a major chemical plant in northwestern Ukraine. The company that operates the plant, Rivneazot, said on Sunday that the suspension posed no environmental risk.
Russian S-300 missiles hit a residential area in the city of Mykolaiv overnight, injuring three people, according to the Ukrainian army’s southern command. Two apartment buildings, a playground and a warehouse were damaged or destroyed, he said in a Facebook post.
Footage posted to Telegram by local media and officials showed an apartment building with a sheared side and piles of rubble amid puddles of water on the adjacent land.
Ukrainian counteroffensive forces in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, meanwhile, targeted Russian-held facilities, including in the town of Nova Kakhovka, and carried out 17 airstrikes during the campaign. overall, according to the General Staff of the Ukrainian army.
In a Telegram article on Sunday, the Ukrainian military claimed to have destroyed 14 Iranian-made Russian drones in the past day.
The mayor of Enerhodar, which houses the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, reported an attack on a hotel used by the Russian occupation forces and people collaborating with them. It was unclear if anyone had been injured.