Russia should not use false claims as a pretext to escalate its war in Ukraine, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned Monday.
“The allegation that Ukraine is preparing to use dirty bombs in Ukraine is absurd,” Stoltenberg said in an interview with POLITICO at the alliance’s Brussels headquarters.
The NATO chief’s comments came after Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told his British, French and Turkish counterparts over the weekend that Ukraine might be preparing to use a “dirty bomb,” a device that combines conventional explosives with radioactive materials.
Stoltenberg said that “it’s absurd” to say Ukraine would use a dirty bomb “on its own territory,” which Kyiv is “fighting so hard to liberate.”
The secretary-general also said that the military alliance is worried that Russia’s rhetoric could be part of a long-standing pattern of behavior.
“What makes us concerned is that this is part of a pattern we have seen before from Russia — in Syria, but also at the start of the war, or just before the war started in February. And that is that Russia is accusing others [of] doing what they intend to do themselves,” he said.
“Russia,” Stoltenberg said, “should not use these false accusations or claims as any pretext for further escalating the war in Ukraine.”
The foreign ministers of France, the U.S. and the U.K. on Sunday also cautioned about Moscow’s rhetoric, noting that they had each spoken to Shoigu.
“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,” the ministers said.
“The world,” they added, “would see through any attempt to use this allegation as a pretext for escalation.”