Russia has told a nuclear testing monitor that a mysterious explosion which killed at least five people earlier this month is ‘none of its business’.
Moscow’s deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov said Russia had handed over some radiation data voluntarily but that the explosion was no concern of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO).
Details of the August 8 explosion have been shrouded in secrecy, but several nuclear scientists are known to have died and radiation levels briefly spiked in the wake of the blast.
There are growing fears that Moscow is trying to cover up details of the explosion, which occurred at a secretive naval weapons testing range near the White Sea in far northern Russia.
The Russian government has revealed few details about the explosion at the military base near Nyonoksa (pictured), other than it involved an ‘isotope power source’
Two Russian radiation monitoring stations which are closest to the military base at Arkhangelsk (pictured), where a suspected nuclear missile explosion took place, went offline two days after the blast amid fears of a cover-up
The Vienna-based nuclear monitor said on Monday that two nearby radiation monitoring sites had gone offline days after the blast.
Another two sites went offline shortly afterwards, fuelling suspicion that Russia tampered with them after the explosion during a rocket engine test.
Moscow is now insisting that the CTBTO has no business investigating the matter, saying some data from radiation stations had been submitted voluntarily.
Russian President Vladmir Putin said yesterday that there was no threat from the explosion.
Putin said that experts sent to the site, near the village of Nyonoksa, are ‘controlling the situation’ and that no ‘serious changes’ have been reported.
But he also said that ‘measures are being taken to ensure that there is nothing unexpected’ after the incident in the Archangelsk region.
Russian authorities have given contradictory information about what happened and Moscow has described it only as involving an ‘isotope power source’.
A mysterious Russian military explosion that left five Russian scientists dead last week happened during tests on a rocket engine
Vladimir Putin has insisted there is ‘no threat’ of contamination after an explosion at a Russian missile testing site sparked fears of a Chernobyl-style catastrophe
Moscow initially insisted radiation levels were normal but the city of Severodvinsk later acknowledged a spike.
However, some further details have emerged in a covert recording of a Russian military officer, who was sent to reassure villagers that they are not living through a new Chernobyl.
In the footage, which was leaked to Russian media, he can be heard saying: ‘On 8 August people went out to the pontoon and it exploded from underneath…
‘They were killed because the pontoon was lifted up into the air. Those on the pontoon got dreadful injuries,’ he added, without giving details of the injuries.
During the Nyonoksa meeting, the officer also admitted villagers are at risk of radiation poisoning if they try to visit a stretch of coastline near the explosion.
A helicopter is pictured transporting injured military to Arkhangelsk Regional Clinical Hospital following the ‘radiation explosion’ on August 8
Experts said they suspected the explosion and the radiation release resulted from a mishap during the testing of a nuclear-powered cruise missile at a facility outside the village of Nyonoksa
Locals were also warned to keep their doors shut.
The official continued: ‘Works had been carried out in order to test one of the engines for a missile. This missile engine is fed by radioactive isotopes… they are its power source.
‘An extraordinary situation took place and as a result of it, there was an explosion.
‘But it was not a nuclear explosion, it was an explosion of an explosive substance.’
The country is particularly sensitive to radiation leaks after the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 which took place in the former Soviet Union in what was the worst nuclear disaster in history.
Vyasheslav Yanovsky, 71, one of Russia’s most senior nuclear scientists, was among those killed in the blast alongside Vyacheslav Lipshev, 40, director of a secret research institute.
Also killed were Evgeny Korotaev, 50, a leading electronics engineer, Alexey Vyushin, 43, who had developed a high-energy photon spectrometer, and Sergey Pichugin, 45, a testing engineer.