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23 Jun, 2023 09:35

Smugglers of radioactive isotope busted – FSB

A group allegedly offered $3.5 million for a kilogram of Cesium-137, which the buyers wanted to use to later frame Russia in Ukraine

The Russian Security Service (FSB) has reported arresting a group of would-be smugglers of the radioactive isotope Cesium-137. It claimed that if the operation had been successful, the dangerous material would have been used in a provocation stunt against Russia in the Ukraine conflict zone.

Five individuals were caught by FSB agents, with support from Interior Ministry officers, the statement reported. The group was acting “with coordination by a Ukrainian citizen” and was willing to pay $3.5 million for one kilogram of the product, it said.

Footage released by the service showed the scene of the purported exchange. The buyers were presented with a heavy container that required four men to carry and put inside a car trunk. Officers subsequently went in to make arrests. Parts of the video were blurred to hide the faces of those involved.

The foreign party that sought to procure Cesium-137 in Russia intended to use it “to conduct an information-propaganda campaign to discredit the country internationally by staging scenes of the use of weapons of mass destruction,” the statement claimed.

Cesium-137 is only produced in nuclear fission reactions, including in reactors and nuclear explosions. Its anthropogenic nature combined with its ability to easily spread across large distances is used by scientists to accurately date pre-atomic-era objects by checking them for traces of the element and products of its radioactive decay. It is also used for radiotherapy and to calibrate gamma radiation sensors.

The isotope has a relatively long half-life of 30 years and its salts are easily soluble in water, which makes it a serious contamination risk.