Analysis of the News “RADIOACTIVE CLOUD ABOVE UKRAINE! The Russians bombed Khmelnytskyi, a high level of gamma radiation was recorded!”

May 2023

As part of the Regional Initiative in Combating Disinformation “Western Balkans Anti-Disinformation Hub: Exposing Malign Influences through Watchdog Journalism”, we present you a new analysis of fake news and disinformation narratives.

RADIOACTIVE CLOUD OVER UKRAINE! The Russians bombed Khmelnytskyi, a high level of gamma radiation was recorded!

In our weekly edition of the disinformation and fake news we encounter, we single out an absolutely centralized theme regarding the alleged Russian destruction of a Ukraine ammo storage in the city of Khmelnytskyi, where depleted uranium weapons were disposed of.

In light of the previous culmination of NATO and depleted uranium stories that emerged close to the anniversary of the NATO intervention in Yugoslavia, this one served as a solid ground for the further spread of disinformation, pervading numerous portals in Serbia. In this regard, we start the analysis from the Republika portal, as it contains a whole series of inaccurate, contradictory, and confusing information.

The Republika begins its analysis by claiming that in the Khmelnytskyi area, shortly after the bombing of the warehouse, an accelerated increase in gamma radiation has been recorded through specialized devices that monitor radiation in the region. This means that as a result of the explosion of depleted uranium in the storage, an increase in gamma radiation occurred while having toxic particles spread through clouds and air across the area, which is completely incorrect.

Namely, the decay of depleted uranium does not emit gamma radiation, nor has an increase in radiation been recorded at all, which was also confirmed by the Khmelnytskyi National University, where the study has been conducted shortly after the explosion. Professor Natalia Mironova, Doctor of Agricultural Sciences and Head of the Department of Ecology and Biological Education, as well as Tatyana Ivanishena, Associate Professor of the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, conducted the study, which was then published by the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine. The radiation levels were measured with a dosimeter-radiometer TERRA MKS-05 during the day, at 9 points evenly distributed in the city area. The obtained values are 0.12-0.15 mSv/h and correspond to long-term indicators for the territory of the city of Khmelnytskyi, and also do not exceed the norm (0.3 mSv/h), meaning that it is far below the exceeding limits and in accordance with natural conditions.

In continuation of the spread of the given disinformation, Russia Today also devoted deeply, referring to the comments of journalist Sergey Karnaukhov. Sergey connected this event with the NATO intervention in Yugoslavia and Iraq, claiming that there will be massive pollution of land, water, and air, as well as an increase in cancer rates. An almost identical article was reported by the portal Srbin info, adding an improvised illustration and a tweet. The authors stated that evacuation is undergoing and people are fleeing from western Ukraine, while radiation patrol units are measuring radiation in the area.

The spread of panic and mistrust is a well-known formula for Russian disinformation channels, and this becomes especially visible when it comes to such complex and narrow topics that the majority of the population is not familiar with. Commenting on different types of radiation, the impact of depleted uranium and similar chemical terms is undoubtedly unknown to daily readers. Therefore, it is natural that most readers will react to such texts with a great deal of fear and uncertainty, which is precisely the goal of the transmitters of this news.

Authors: Đorđe Terek, Tanja Plavšić