IAEA preparing to inspect two sites in Ukraine over ‘dirty bomb’ claims

VIENNA (Reuters) -The U.N. nuclear watchdog is preparing to send inspectors in the coming days to two Ukrainian sites at Kyiv’s request, it said on Monday, in an apparent reaction to Russian claims that Ukraine could deploy a so-called dirty bomb, which Ukraine denies.

The International Atomic Energy Agency’s announcement followed statements by a senior Russian officer that two institutes in Ukraine linked to the nuclear industry were engaged in preparations to produce such a bomb. “Dirty bombs” are laced with nuclear material.

“The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is aware of statements made by the Russian Federation on Sunday about alleged activities at two nuclear locations in Ukraine,” the IAEA said in a statement, adding that both were already subject to its inspections and one was inspected a month ago.

“The IAEA is preparing to visit the locations in the coming days. The purpose of the safeguards visits is to detect any possible undeclared nuclear activities and material,” it added.

Russian media quoted Lieutenant General Igor Kirillov, head of Russia’s nuclear, biological and chemical protection troops, as telling a briefing: “According to the information we have, two organisations in Ukraine are under concrete instructions to create a so-called dirty bomb.”

Russia’s state news agency RIA had earlier identified what it said were the two sites involved in the operation — the Eastern Mineral Enrichment Plant in central Dnipropetrovsk region and the Institute for Nuclear Research in Kyiv.

The IAEA statement did not refer to either facility. But it quoted IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi as saying that the agency had “inspected one of these locations one month ago and all our findings were consistent with Ukraine’s safeguards declarations.

“No undeclared nuclear activities or material were found there.”

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted earlier in the day that he had spoken to Grossi and urged him to “send experts to peaceful facilities in Ukraine which Russia deceitfully claims to be developing a “dirty bomb.” He agreed.”

(Reporting by Francois Murphy and Ronald Popeski; Editing by Franklin Paul and Cynthia Osterman)

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