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Biden warns Russia not to use a tactical nuclear weapon

<i>Evan Vucci/AP</i><br/>President Joe Biden
AP
Evan Vucci/AP
President Joe Biden

By Kevin Liptak, CNN

President Joe Biden said Russia would be making a “serious, serious mistake” should it deploy a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine, his latest warning to President Vladimir Putin against escalating the months-long conflict.

Top administration officials are working to decipher Moscow’s claims that Kyiv is preparing to use a dirty bomb on the ground in Ukraine, an allegation that Western leaders have called false.

The claims have nonetheless raised fears Russia could be laying the groundwork to launch such an attack as a pretext for escalating the war in Ukraine, a prospect Biden offered a sharp warning against in brief remarks Tuesday.

“I spent a lot of time today talking about that,” Biden said when questioned about Russia’s intentions.

“Let me just say Russia would be making incredibly serious mistake if it were to use a tactical nuclear weapon,” he went on. “I’m not guaranteeing that it’s a false flag operation yet. We don’t know. It would be a serious, serious mistake.”

Biden was speaking after receiving a Covid booster shot at the White House.

Without providing any evidence, Moscow claimed this week there are scientific institutions in Ukraine housing the technology needed to create a dirty bomb — and accuses Kyiv of planning to use it.

The Russian Defense Ministry said in a briefing on Monday that it has information showing that Kyiv is planning a provocation related to the detonation of a dirty bomb.

Russia’s allegations have been strongly refuted by Ukraine, the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union and NATO, which have in turn accused Moscow of trying to launch its own false-flag operation.

American officials have said they do not see evidence that Russia is currently preparing to use an unconventional weapon, such as a dirty bomb, on the battlefield in Ukraine. Nor do they see evidence that Putin has decided on using one.

But the rhetoric alone has caused deep concern that Russia could be preparing for a sharp escalation on the ground.

The US is “monitoring as best we can” any potential preparations for use of a dirty bomb in Ukraine, but doesn’t currently see anything to indicate the imminent use of such a weapon, the White House said Monday.

“If an actor wanted to do a dirty bomb attack, a lot of our ability to detect would be determined by a range of factors, including the length of time that the perpetrator was going to prepare for or the communications that would be involved in doing that, and size and location,” said John Kirby, the strategic communications coordinator for the National Security Council.

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