- Accident: At least two dead and six injured by an explosion in a military estate in northern Russia
- Russia: 14 Russian sailors die from a fire in a submersible
Four days after the nuclear explosion that killed at least seven people in a remote Russian Arctic base, Russian authorities acknowledged yesterday that the accident was related to "new weapons" tests . Already on Saturday, after two days of silence, Russia admitted that the explosion at one of its missile launch bases affected a nuclear-powered projectile.
Five of the victims are civilians, technicians who worked at the base, and two military. In addition there are three people who suffered burns. The Kremlin has not commented on the accident. But if confirmed by the specialists, it could be the second most serious nuclear incident since the Chernobyl catastrophe.
US experts suspect that the radiation release was due to an accident during the Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile test. Yesterday, after paying tribute to five dead scientists, Russia's chief nuclear officer Alexei Lijachev , president of Rosatom, promised to develop new nuclear weapons and recalled that this occurs relatively frequently: "Americans last year also tested a small reactor scale, our center also continues to work in this direction. "
It is not the first time that the Burevestnik 9M730 nuclear propulsion missile is mentioned in the news: it is one of the new “super weapons” that Vladimir Putin wanted to compensate for the US military force in a post-INF scenario, the treaty of intermediate nuclear weapons. A source in the military industry denied Sunday that the accident occurred with a Burevestnik and said, in statements to the newspaper 'Nezavisimaya Gazeta', that the tests of this missile ended successfully half a year ago.
The event shows that Putin's arms bet is serious. On August 2, Washington broke with Moscow and formally withdrew from the INF, which had been signed in 1987 by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev . The Trump administration argued that for years Moscow developed weapons that violate the treaty and threaten the US and Europe. Putin, on the other hand, already warned several times that his country would protect itself by reacting symmetrically to the US nuclear deployment.
The test was conducted on a "maritime platform" Nenoska, as published by The New York Times. The site is located in Severodvinsk. There is one of the main research and development facilities of the Russian Navy (where ballistic, intercontinental and cruise missiles are built and tested) and also the assembly base for atomic and conventional submarines. According to the official version, the specialists were "conducting research on missile propulsion with radionuclides (radioactive nuclide)". The closed city of Sarov, which houses the main Russian nuclear research center, decreed a day of mourning on Sunday and the five dead specialists were posthumously decorated after the funeral.
The Russian Army and a spokesman for the regional governor said Thursday that "there was no radioactive contamination . " But the mayor of Severodvinsk said on its website that its detectors "recorded a brief rise in radioactivity." The explosion has caused a strong shock in Severodvinsk, a city of 190,000 inhabitants located about 30 km from the base, for fear of exposure to radiation. The neighbors went to pharmacies to buy iodine, which is used to limit the effects , and some clinics gave leaflets with the rules to follow in case of radioactive contamination. When the statement was withdrawn a few hours later, the concern spread throughout the country. The population is very aware of the accident that took place in 1986 in the Soviet Union, in the Ukrainian central Chernobyl. The authorities were accused of having hidden for weeks the extent of the disaster to avoid the scandal.
Russia closed a bay in the White Sea to civilian traffic for a month: it may be that the water is contaminated, or that they are conducting a search operation. The digital media 'Baza' reported that six injured in the incident had symptoms of radiation exposure . He even added that they were transported by helicopter to the National Biophysical Center of Burnazyan, and that their clothes were incinerated. Greenpeace Russia gave the same figure, but stating that the radiation lasted at least an hour, without it representing major health risks. It is the second nuclear 'scare' that Russia takes this summer. At the beginning of July 14 officers of the Russian army died in the fire of a nuclear submarine in the Barents Sea, in circumstances over which the Russian authorities were silent, claiming "state secret."
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