Russia’s statements that Ukraine could have used a “dirty bomb” in the war were called “nuclear blackmail” and rejected by the West.

With its forces facing a series of battlefield defeats and the risk of being overwhelmed in the south, the Kremlin has made claims that Kyiv could use such an explosion on its territory – without providing evidence.

Britain, the US and France dismissed the claims as “manifestly false” and said the world would consider any attempt to use it as a pretext for escalation.

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This is happening at a time when Ukrainians are being asked to conserve electricity as part of the country’s power grid Russian missiles and drones continue to kill.

During telephone conversations with British, French and Turkish colleagues, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu discussed the “rapidly deteriorating situation” in Ukraine, the ministry said.

Without providing evidence, he said Ukraine can be exacerbated by the use of a so-called “dirty bomb” – a conventional explosive with radioactive material.

Ukraine does not possess nuclear weapons, abandoning the ones it inherited from the Soviet Union in 1994.

Russiahowever, has said it can defend its territory with its own nuclear arsenal and has repeatedly rattled off nuclear weapons to confront the West.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that “everyone understands” that Russia is “the source of everything dirty that can be imagined in this war.”

Speaking on Telegram, he called on the world to react “as harshly as possible”.

He added: “If Russia has prepared another round of rate hikes and another step towards escalation, it must make sure now, preemptively and before the new ‘dirt’, that the world does not swallow it.”

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov called Moscow’s claims “fake” and an act of “nuclear blackmail.”

In a joint statement, the foreign ministers of Great Britain, the United States and France said: “Our countries have made it clear that we all reject Russia’s patently false accusations that Ukraine is preparing to use a dirty bomb on its territory.

“The world would consider any attempt to use this accusation as a pretext for escalation.

“We also reject any reason for escalation on the part of Russia.”