By Nauman Sadiq, VT Islamabad
Russian media alleged today that Ukraine was close to building a plutonium-based “dirty bomb” nuclear weapon. The TASS, RIA and Interfax news agencies quoted “a representative of a competent body” in Russia as saying Ukraine was developing nuclear weapons at the destroyed Chernobyl nuclear power plant recently seized by Russian forces.
Shortly before the military intervention in Ukraine, Russian President Putin also noted in an address to the nation that Ukraine was using Soviet know-how to create its own nuclear weapons, and that this was tantamount to preparation for an attack on Russia.
Depicting a doomsday scenario in order to malign Russia’s calculated offensive in Ukraine to minimize collateral damage, mainstream reporting focused Friday, March 4, on the fire that broke out  at Zaporizhzhia plant, one of Europe’s largest nuclear power plants situated 550 km southeast of Kyiv. The fire has since been extinguished after the plant was captured by Russian troops and no radiation leakage has been detected.
The black-op of setting a building in the sprawling nuclear complex alight and then posting doctored video clips of Russian tanks shelling straight at the nuclear plant on social media, promptly verified as “authentic” by corporate media, was clearly the dirty work of covert saboteurs who’ve been advising and assisting Ukraine’s inept security forces and also taking active part in combat operations in some of the most hard-fought battles against Russia’s security forces north of Kyiv and at Kharkiv and Donbas.
Besides setting the building ablaze, neo-Nazi saboteurs and foreign mercenaries fighting alongside Ukraine’s security forces also reportedly stole large quantities of fissile material from Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhia plants before the nuclear reactors were captured by Russian forces, and are working on rigging conventional explosives with fissile material to build dirty nukes in order to inflict maximum damage on Russian forces in combat zones.
Blackwater mercenaries who have recently joined the fray in Ukraine after getting a nod of approval from the US national security agencies are especially skilled in building dirty nukes.
Total number of nuclear warheads across the world currently stands at roughly 13,000: Russia has 5977; NATO has 5943, including 5428 in the US, 290 in France and 225 in the United Kingdom; China has 350, Pakistan 165, India 160, Israel 90 and North Korea has 20 nuclear weapons, according to the Federation of American Scientists.
In addition, according to an Oct. 2017 Turkish parliament report , nuclear weapons belonging to the US were deployed in five NATO member states that did not themselves have developed nuclear programs. “There are nearly 150 US nuclear weapons in six air bases in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey,” it added.
During the Cold War, the US placed nuclear weapons in NATO countries, including Turkey, as part of the organization’s nuclear sharing program. Some of the nuclear weapons placed in the 1960s are still deployed in Turkey.
Although five non-nuclear NATO members are officially acknowledged to host American nukes, NATO has in fact covertly deployed strategic armaments in Eastern Europe, too, specifically in Poland, Bulgaria and Romania, aimed at Russia.
This was the foremost rationale the Kremlin was staunchly against the inclusion of Ukraine, straddling its western flank, into NATO and demanded written assurances against the transatlantic military alliance’s eastward expansion imperiling Russia’s regional security.
The safety of fifty American B-61 hydrogen bombs deployed at Incirlik airbase in Turkey became a matter of real concern during the foiled July 2016 coup plot against the Erdogan government after the commander of the Incirlik airbase, General Bekir Ercan Van, along with nine other officers were arrested for supporting the coup; movement in and out of the base was denied, power supply was cut off and the security threat level was raised to the highest state of alert, according to a report  by Eric Schlosser for the New Yorker.
The Biden administration approved on Feb. 24 an additional 7,000 US troops  to be deployed to Germany, bringing the total number of American forces sent to Europe to 12,000 this month, including troops previously deployed to Poland, Bulgaria and Romania.
In Poland alone, the US military footprint now exceeds 10,000 troops as the majority of 12,000 troops sent to Europe last month went to Poland to join the 4,000 US troops already stationed there. The East European nation notorious for supporting the Nazis during the Second World War and committing a massacre of three million Jews has once again become a hub of covert warfare and providing lethal military assistance to Ukraine’s security forces and allied neo-Nazi militias.
It wouldn’t be surprising if Russia decides to invade Poland next after subduing Ukraine. According to a Politico report , the White House was weighing a three-way deal with Poland to get Soviet-era MiG fighter jets to Ukraine in return for the US providing Poland F-16s, despite stark warning by the Kremlin that any country attempting to impose no-fly zone over Ukraine would be treated as a belligerent in the war.
The US has already disbursed $240 million of the $350 million in military assistance Biden approved recently, mostly on buying surface-to-air missiles and antitank Javelins, though there would be no shortage of funds for turning Ukraine into one of the most militarized nations on the planet following military intervention by the New Cold War rival, as the Biden administration has already announced a much larger $10 billion “humanitarian” and military assistance package, subject to forthcoming approval by the US Congress, and Washington’s opulent West European clients would willingly contribute billions more to punish Russia’s transgression in Eastern Europe.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told RT  on Thursday, March 3: “There’s information that mercenaries from Kosovo, Albania, and Bosnia and Herzegovina are being recruited to be transported to Donbass, and other nations, in order to destabilize Russia. We’re checking that.” That’s close to an official acknowledgement that besides neo-Nazis and foreign mercenaries, Islamic jihadists from the Balkans are also fighting in Ukraine’s proxy war.
Besides providing lethal drone warfare technology to Ukraine and closing Bosporus straits to warships, effectively blockading Russia’s Black Sea fleet and cutting it off from the Mediterranean fleet, Turkish President Erdogan has also reportedly introduced Syria’s battle-hardened militants, including the ISIS jihadists, to the Ukraine conflict.
During the neo-Ottoman Sultan’s official visit to Ukraine last month following the escalation of hostilities with Russia, selling and co-producing Turkish-made drones to Ukraine’s security forces was publicly discussed between the two delegations, but in secret negotiations between security officials of Turkey and Ukraine, Ankara also pledged to dispatch Syrian mercenaries to Ukraine.
Several contingents of Syrian militant groups had already left for Ukraine and were taking part in some of the most hard-fought battles against Russian security forces north of Kyiv and at Kharkiv and Donbas and the rest were on their way, according to informed sources.
One of the principal reasons the Russian armored corps has lost so many tanks and armored personnel carriers during the ten-day offensive is that Syrian mercenaries are especially skilled in using Javelin antitank weapons—which they dubbed “the Assad-tamer” during Syria’s decade-long conflict—as they were trained in the use of American-made TOW antitank munitions by Turkish security officials during the CIA’s Operation Timber Sycamore and the Pentagon’s $500 million train-and-equip programs to provide guerrilla warfare training and lethal weaponry to rebels battling the Syrian government at the training camps located at border regions of Turkey and Jordan.
Besides mounting several military incursions into northern Syria and illegally occupying northwestern enclaves Idlib and Afrin and several strategic areas east of Euphrates, Erdogan also sent thousands of Syrian jihadists, drones and military hardware in support of the Tripoli government against eastern Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar’s military campaign in western Libya lasting from April 2019 to June 2020. After defeating Haftar’s forces in Tripoli, Turkish proxies had set their sights on Sirte but a peace process involving international mediators has since begun.
Similarly, during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan that lasted from September to November 2020, Armenia’s ambassador to Moscow alleged that Turkey had sent thousands of fighters from northern Syria to Azerbaijan. Armenia also accused that Turkish military experts had fought alongside Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh and that Turkey had provided drones and warplanes.
Turkish militarist policy of introducing Syrian mercenaries to the Ukraine war is the outcome of a long-running feud between two strongmen, Erdogan and Putin, who’ve previously crossed swords lending military support to opposing militant factions in Syria, Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh.
Besides the inducement of monetary rewards, Islamic jihadists also have ideological reasons to fight Russian forces in Ukraine, as they were previously pounded by Russian forces in Chechnya, former Yugoslavia and lately in Syria. Thus, they have a score to settle with Russia in Ukraine.
When Russia deployed its forces and military hardware in support of the Syrian government in September 2015, the jihadist proxies of Washington and its regional clients were on the verge of driving a wedge between Damascus and the Alawite heartland of coastal Latakia, which could have led to the imminent downfall of the Bashar al-Assad government.
With the help of Russia’s air power, the Syrian government has since reclaimed most of Syria’s territory from the insurgents, excluding Idlib in the northwest occupied by the Turkish-backed militants and Deir al-Zor and the Kurdish-held areas in the east, thus inflicting a humiliating defeat on Washington and its regional allies.
The artificial distinction between ISIS jihadists and so-called “moderate militants” in Syria’s proxy war was more illusory than real. After the liberation of the ISIS-held territories in Mosul and Anbar in Iraq and Raqqa and Deir al-Zor in Syria in 2017 and the clearance operations at the Iraq-Syria border that lasted until 2019, the remnants of the militant group are on the run and the rest have already joined the ranks of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), led by al-Qaeda’s formidable Syrian franchise al-Nusra Front.
Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), led by al-Nusra Front Emir Abu Muhammad al-Jolani, controls most of the territory in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province with the tacit approval of Turkish security forces that have established numerous military outposts in the contested Syrian enclave bordering Turkey.
Both the self-styled caliphs of ISIS, al-Baghdadi who was killed in Oct. 2019 and his successor al-Qurayshi who was eliminated in the Feb. 3 raid, were hiding in Syria’s Idlib with the blessings of al-Nusra leadership and the Turkish security forces, which have trained and armed myriad groups of jihadists during Syria’s decade-long proxy war, and were scapegoated by the neo-Ottoman Sultan to extract geo-strategic concessions from Washington.
Reportedly, the contingents of Syrian mercenaries who have arrived in Ukraine to fight Russian security forces include a significant number of ISIS militants, as they are the most battle-hardened and ideologically driven and are known to deploy suicide bombings and VBIED attacks as weapons of choice, inflicting maximum casualties on adversaries.
About the author: Nauman Sadiq is an Islamabad-based geopolitical and national security analyst focused on geostrategic affairs and hybrid warfare in the Af-Pak and the Middle East regions. His domains of expertise include neocolonialism, the military-industrial complex, and petro-imperialism. He is a regular contributor of diligently researched investigative reports to alternative news media.