Dirty Bomb Threats, Nuclear Drills and Martial Law: Inside Russia’s Escalation in Ukraine

Don’t believe anything until the Kremlin denies it: dirty bomb accusations prelude potential attack from Russia.

It can be difficult to keep up with the rapid-fire lies from Putin, which seem to fly just as frequently as his missiles into Ukraine. Here are some notable events from the last few days of his ongoing invasion.

Dirty Bomb Claims

Putin and his generals have accused Ukraine of planning to use a dirty bomb against Russia. Dirty bombs are regular explosives laced with radioactive, biological, or chemical components which are spread during an explosion. Kyiv responded and said this accusation was untrue, and was in fact Moscow setting the stage to frame Ukraine when Russian forces inevitably set off dirty bombs themselves to justify escalating the invasion. 

The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), was sent in to investigate these alleged dirty bomb-making sites, an invitation extended to them by the Ukrainian government after Putin demanded the agency go. The IAEA said they investigated the location Putin said the dirty bombs were being made and found that “no undeclared nuclear activities or materials were found there.”

What the IAEA did find in Ukraine, though, was evidence to confirm the suspicion that Russian troops were kidnapping employees of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP), which Russia has held hostage as a powder keg for months. The IAEA and the international community once again pleaded that Russia leave ZNPP alone due to the potential for nuclear disaster. 

Energoatom, Ukraine’s state organization operating the country’s nuclear power plants, said Russian forces occupying ZNPP were conducting secret construction work at the plant. Energoatom stated the Russian occupiers were “preparing a terrorist act using nuclear materials and radioactive waste stored at [ZNPP].”

With the eyes of the world watching, Putin knows how bad it would look to carry out an unprovoked nuclear attack on Ukraine as a result of a failed invasion. Making it look as if Ukraine used nuclear weapons against them first is the only way they would be able to publicly justify such an attack on Ukrainians. Kyiv believes this is Putin’s plot. 

Nuclear Drills

Last week, Putin oversaw nuclear drills by the Russian forces, who were testing both ballistic and cruise missiles in a show of force that Putin will use “all means available” in their invasion of Ukraine. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reported to Putin that the exercise was intended to simulate a “massive nuclear strike” by Russia in retaliation for a nuclear attack on Russia. 

This, combined with Ukraine’s stance that Russia is using accusations of a dirty bomb to lay the groundwork for their own attacks, could mean dire consequences for Ukrainians, Russians, and the globe. 

Martial Law

On October 19, Putin declared a state of martial law in the four illegally annexed regions of Ukraine: Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhya. In a meeting with his security council, Putin said that, “I signed a decree on the introduction of martial law in these four constituent entities of the Russian Federation.” 

In these regions, martial law now means Russian soldiers can detain people for up to 30 days, seize property, forcibly resettle residents, and imprison immigrants. So, basically what they’ve already been doing.

Then, referring to his move to crackdown on dissent at home and set-up a wartime economy, he said, “In addition, in the current situation, I consider it necessary to give additional powers to the leaders of all Russian regions.”

Those additional powers include giving Russian leaders the ability to “mobilize the economy to meet the needs of the army,” as well as suspend any activities that undermine the Russian military, and halting all activities of political parties, public organizations, and religious groups. Russian leaders can also set their own restrictions on entry and exit to and from their region. Clearly Putin is concerned that demonstrated protests against the war are ripe for revolution. 


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