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What is a dirty bomb and could one be used in Ukraine?

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Russia is accusing Ukraine of preparing a dirty bomb, as tensions continue to worsen between the two countries

Russia insists Ukraine is seeking to use a weapon of mass destruction.

The Kremlin has doubled down on claims a ‘dirty bomb’ is being prepared as the war in Ukraine ticks into its eighth month.

Russian state-media said the West is “wrong” to ignore the warnings coming from Moscow.

“This attitude, far from being serious, is unacceptable given the seriousness of the danger that we are talking about,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

These weapons combine conventional explosives with radioactive material.

The radioactive material increases the destructive power of the bomb and also creates long-lasting radiological contamination.

“Once again, we are emphasising the grave danger that stems from the implementation of the plans the Ukrainians have,” Mr Peskov said.

When a dirty bomb detonates, the explosion scatters the radioactive material over a wide area.

The damage depends on the type of explosive used, the strength of the explosion, and the amount and type of radioactive material dispersed.

While it is not considered a nuclear weapon, it can cause death and injuries from the initial explosion and from the exposure to radiation.

In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believes it is an “improvised nuclear device or nuclear weapon”.

Russia has requested a meeting with the United Nations Security Council to discuss Kyiv’s alleged plans.

Russian state-media said its fellow security council members (the U.S., Britain, China and France), and the UN’s Secretary-General Antonio Guterres have been briefed on the matter.

However, the West has described Moscow’s claims as “false”.

“Let me just say Russia would be making an incredibly serious mistake were it to use a tactical nuclear weapon.”

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT

U.S. President Joe Biden—who anticipated Russia’s invasion of Ukraine based on U.S. intelligence—said the use of tactical weapons would be a serious mistake.

“I cannot guarantee you that it is a false flag operation yet,” he said.

What is the threat?

Russia, and indeed the U.S. have a history of using unconventional weapons against its enemies, in both real and perceived terms.

In recent years, there have been several reports of soldiers using chemical weapons in Syria.

Professor John Bryson from the University of Birmingham said Russia’s President is getting desperate.

“Putin has created a major problem for the Kremlin, and this is a problem of his own making.”

“Statehood is based not just on a territory that is recognised under international law but is also founded on a set of institutions that are respected by citizens and other states,” he said.

The U.S. Defense Department said it has “sophisticated technical means” of detecting nuclear or radiological detonations of any kind.

Meanwhile, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow’s allegations are “not empty words”.

He has also doubled down on claims about these radioactive weapons being used. He said they “have been verified”.

But Professor Bryson said this rhetoric could be indicative of Russia planning to use these weapons itself.

“Putin has very few options left. He continues to try to find some positive outcome to his special military operation.”

PROFESSOR JOHN BRYSON, UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM

“The deployment of tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine would only cement Russia’s failure on three fronts—within Russia, international governmental and corporate relations and within Ukraine,” Professor Bryson said.

Dirty bombs are yet to be used in combat. However, a group of Islamic State militants gathered the ingredients to launch one of these weapons in the city of Mosul, Iraq in 2017.

UK monitoring showed Islamic State was suspected of using chemical weapons on at least 52 occasions since 2014 in and around the Mosul area.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba said reports about a dirty bomb are part of a broader disinformation campaign by Moscow.

“Unlike Russia, Ukraine has always been and remains transparent. We have nothing to hide,” Mr Kuleba said.  

But Professor Bryson believes Moscow may have its own rationale for using such weapons.

“Putin has argued that the United States created a nuclear precedent by bombing Japan.”

But Professor Bryson maintains this is still “no precedent for deploying nuclear weapons”.

Costa is a news producer at ticker NEWS. He has previously worked as a regional journalist at the Southern Highlands Express newspaper. He also has several years' experience in the fire and emergency services sector, where he has worked with researchers, policymakers and local communities. He has also worked at the Seven Network during their Olympic Games coverage and in the ABC Melbourne newsroom. He also holds a Bachelor of Arts (Professional), with expertise in journalism, politics and international relations. His other interests include colonial legacies in the Pacific, counter-terrorism, aviation and travel.

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World

Texas man breaks ice off trampoline net

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Texas cold snap sees temperatures plummet

 
How’s this for cold?

Twitter user Brett Hillier has shared a video from his property in Texas, showing ice on the net of his trampoline cracking.

The Dallas-Fort Worth area has been blanketed with snow, with hazardous conditions expected to continue until at least Thursday.

Authorities have responded to hundreds of accident-related calls, with the ice storm wreaking havoc on roads.

The freezing conditions are making making roads slick, sending cars sliding as residents are told to stay home.

Schools across Mississippi and Tennessee have also been shut. #trending #featured

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World

Kamala Harris demands Congress pass George Floyd Act

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U.S. vice President Kamala Harris has implored Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act

While at the funeral of Tyre Nichols, who was beaten and died at the hands of five Memphis police officers – Harris implored for the right thing to be done.

“As vice-president of the United States, we demand that Congress pass the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act. Joe Biden will sign it,” Harris made the call to action while at the congregation in Memphis.

The Memphis Police Department fired five of the officers involved in the attack, who also are Black.

Prosecutors then charged them last week with second-degree murder, assault, kidnapping, official misconduct and oppression.

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Business

Meta stocks soar in ‘Year of Efficiency’

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Meta Platforms has announced a better-than-expected sales quarter, as well as a USD$40 billion stock buyback.

The parent of Instagram and Facebook cut its cost outlook for 2023 by $5 billion, and projected first-quarter sales that could beat Wall Street estimates.

Meta stock surged nearly 19% in after-hours trade.

Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg described the focus on efficiency as part of the natural evolution of the company, calling it a “phase change” for an organisation that once lived by the motto “move fast and break things.”

“We just grew so quickly for like the first 18 years,” Zuckerberg said in a conference call. “It’s very hard to really crank on efficiency while you’re growing that quickly. I just think we’re in a different environment now.”

The cost cuts reflect Meta’s updated plans for lower data centre construction expenses this year.

In November, the company cut more than 11,000 jobs in response, a precursor to the tens of thousands of layoffs in the tech industry that followed.

“Our management theme for 2023 is the ‘Year of Efficiency’ and we are focused on becoming a stronger and more nimble organisation,” Zuckerberg said in a statement.

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