Despite rebuffs from Western nations, Russia continued to accuse Ukraine of preparing to use a “dirty bomb” and said it would bring the matter to the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday.
Diplomats said Russia has told council counterparts it will bring up the issue during a closed-door meeting of the 15-member body.
Russia’s Ambassador to the United Nations Vasily Nebenzya sent a letter, seen by VOA, to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the Security Council late Monday, saying Russia “will regard the use of the dirty bomb by the Kiev regime as an act of nuclear terrorism.”
Ukraine has strongly denied Moscow’s allegations that it is planning to detonate a dirty bomb on its own territory and has in turn accused Russia of plotting to use the threat of a bomb laced with nuclear material as a pretext for escalation in Ukraine.
U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price warned Monday of the “profound nature of consequences” that would befall Russia if it used a dirty bomb or any other nuclear weapon.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday that NATO allies rejected Russia’s claims that Ukraine is preparing to use a dirty bomb on its own territory and added “Russia must not use it as a pretext for escalation.”
Stoltenberg said he had a call with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and his British counterpart, Ben Wallace, on the matter Monday.
Meanwhile, the head of Russia’s nuclear, biological and chemical protection troops, Lieutenant General Igor Kirillov, in a media briefing said Russian forces are “preparing to work under radioactive contamination.”
U.S. officials said Monday there is currently no indication that Moscow has made any efforts to use a dirty bomb or nuclear weapons.
“We continue to see nothing in the way of preparations by the Russian side for the use of nuclear weapons,” White House national security spokesperson John Kirby told reporters.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi confirmed that “no undeclared nuclear activities or material were found” in Ukrainian nuclear locations.
“The IAEA inspected one of these locations one month ago and all our findings were consistent with Ukraine’s safeguards declarations,” Grossi said.
Grossi confirmed that both locations are under IAEA safeguards and have been visited regularly by IAEA inspectors. He added that the IAEA received a written request from Ukraine Monday to send teams of inspectors to carry out verification activities at the two locations.
As Ukraine advances into Kherson, pressure is mounting on Russia, which told 60,000 people there “to save your lives” and flee a Ukrainian counteroffensive.
In calls with his French, British and Turkish counterparts Sunday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu discussed the “rapidly deteriorating situation” and leveled accusations that Ukraine is planning to use a 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.”
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, held a phone conversation with Russian General Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian General Staff, the defense ministry said in a statement. It also said both sides agreed on the importance of maintaining open channels of communication.
Ukraine has rejected Russian allegations that Ukrainian forces might detonate a radioactive device and accused Russia of planning to carry out such an act and blame it on Ukraine.
“Russian lies about Ukraine allegedly planning to use a ‘dirty bomb’ are as absurd as they are dangerous,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said during his nightly address Sunday that Russia was the only one in the region capable of using nuclear weapons.
“If Russia calls and says that Ukraine is allegedly preparing something, it means one thing: Russia has already prepared all this,” Zelenskyy said. “I believe that now the world should react in the toughest possible way.”
U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Monday that Iran was making the world less safe by supplying Russia with drones to be used against targets in Ukraine.
“I think Iran is making a big mistake,” Pelosi said after meeting Croatia’s Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic. “First of all, we have to be able to counter the drones … it is a dangerous technology, and it must be stopped,” she said.
Pelosi arrived in Zagreb Monday to attend “The Crimea Platform Summit,” on Ukraine’s independence and the return of the Crimean Peninsula to Kyiv since its annexation by Russia in 2014.
“We’ve been trying for a while now to have a nuclear agreement with Iran so that we can make the world a safer place, and now they’re going off aiding the Russians and making the world a less safe place,” Pelosi said.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine entered its eighth month Monday.
Pelosi has been a strong supporter of providing aid and military assistance to the country since Russia invaded February 24.
Iran has denied supplying drones to Russia for use in Ukraine and condemned a call by Britain, France and Germany for the United Nations to investigate whether Russia used Iranian-made attack drones.
Iran will not remain indifferent if it is proved that its drones are being used by Russia in Ukraine, foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian was reported as saying by Iranian state media Monday.
“If it is proven to us that Iranian drones are being used in the Ukraine war against people, we should not remain indifferent.” He also said that the defense cooperation between Tehran and Moscow will continue.
U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner “does not expect miracles” at her appeal hearing Tuesday of a nine-year Russian jail term for having cannabis oil in her luggage, her lawyers said in a statement.
The twice Olympic gold medalist was arrested February 17 at a Moscow airport with vape cartridges containing cannabis oil, which is banned in Russia. She was sentenced August 4 to nine years in a penal colony on charges of possessing and smuggling drugs.
Griner’s lawyers, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, said she would take part in Tuesday’s hearing by video link from the detention center where she has been held, and that they expected a verdict the same day.
“She is very nervous waiting for the appeal hearing. Brittney does not expect any miracles to happen but hopes that the appeal court will hear the arguments of the defense and reduce the term,” they said.
Griner pleaded guilty at her trial but said she had made an “honest mistake” and had not meant to break the law.
Washington says Griner was wrongfully detained and has offered to exchange her for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer serving a 25-year prison sentence in the United States.
Moscow has also suggested it is open to a prisoner swap.
VOA’s U.N. correspondent Margaret Besheer contributed to this article. Some information for this story came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.