Russia authorities urged residents of Nyonoksa, which is close to the site of the explosion, to leave their village. (Wikipedia: Kharin Andrey)
Secrecy surrounding an explosion that killed five nuclear scientists and caused a spike in radiation levels has raised fears of a cover-up as Russian authorities call on residents of Nyonoksa to leave their village.
- Medics who treated victims of an accident have been sent to Moscow for medical examination
- Russia’s state weather service said radiation levels spiked in Severodvinsk by up to 16 times
- Many Russians spoke angrily on social media of misleading reports reminiscent of Chernobyl
The explosion took place on Thursday at a naval weapons range on the coast of the White Sea in northern Russia.
State nuclear agency Rosatom said the accident occurred during a rocket test on a sea platform, with rocket fuel catching fire after the test, causing the device to detonate.
Two days later, after a spike in radiation levels was reported, Rosatom conceded the accident involved nuclear materials.
Many Russians spoke angrily on social media of misleading reports reminiscent of the lethal delays in acknowledging the Chernobyl accident three decades ago.
Russia’s state weather service said radiation levels spiked in the Russian city of Severodvinsk by up to 16 times following the explosion.
On Tuesday, Russian authorities urged residents of Nyonoksa, which is closer to the site of the explosion and has a population of around 500, to leave their village while work is carried out in the area.
“We have received a notification … about the planned activities of the military authorities. In this regard, residents of Nyonoksa were asked to leave the territory of the village from August 14,” local media quoted authorities in Severodvinsk as saying.
‘People need reliable information’
The five scientists that died in the explosion were buried Monday in the closed city of Sarov. (AP: Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation ROSATOM)
US experts said they suspected the cause was a botched test of a nuclear-powered cruise missile commissioned by President Vladimir Putin.
Boris L Vishnevsky, a member of the St. Petersburg City Council, told the New York Times that dozens of people had called asking for clarification about radiation risks.
“People need reliable information,” Mr Vishnevsky told the Times. “And if the authorities think there is no danger, and nothing needs to be done, let them announce this formally so people don’t worry.”
The five scientists that died in the explosion were buried Monday in the closed city of Sarov — which houses a nuclear research facility and is surrounded by fences patrolled by the military.
While hailing the deceased as the “pride of the atomic sector”, Rosatom head Alexei Likhachev pledged to continue developing new weapons.
“The best tribute to them will be our continued work on new models of weapons, which will definitely be carried out to the end,” Mr Likhachev was quoted as saying by RIA news agency.
Medics who treated victims sent to Moscow
Medics who treated the victims of an accident were sent to Moscow for medical examination, TASS news agency cited an unnamed medical source as saying on Tuesday.
The medics sent to Moscow have signed an agreement promising not to divulge information about the incident, TASS cited the source as saying.
US President Donald Trump said on Twitter on Monday the United States was “learning much” from the explosion and the United States had “similar, though more advanced, technology”.
He said Russians were worried about the air quality around the facility and far beyond, a situation he described as “Not good!”
@realDonaldTrump: The United States is learning much from the failed missile explosion in Russia. We have similar, though more advanced, technology. The Russian “Skyfall” explosion has people worried about the air around the facility, and far beyond. Not good!
But when asked about his comments on Tuesday, the Kremlin said it, not the United States, was out in front when it came to developing new nuclear weapons.
“Our president has repeatedly said that Russian engineering in this sector significantly outstrips the level that other countries have managed to reach for the moment, and it is fairly unique,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
Mr Putin used his state-of-the nation speech in 2018 to unveil what he described as a raft of invincible new nuclear weapons, including a nuclear-powered cruise missile, an underwater nuclear-powered drone, and a laser weapon.
Tensions between Moscow and Washington over arms control have been exacerbated by the demise this month of a landmark nuclear treaty.