MOSCOW — The residents of the village closest to the site of the accidental explosion of a prototype missile that relies on nuclear fuel are to be evacuated Wednesday morning for two hours. A special train will be dispatched to Nyonoksa to take them away, according to news organizations in Russia’s northern Arkhangelsk region.
About 450 people are said to live in the village, which abuts a military testing range.
One resident told tv29.ru that at least some of the villagers would walk off into the forest outside the village rather than board the train.
The missile blew up Thursday evening, killing five workers from the Federal Nuclear Center in Sarov. American experts, as well as President Trump, have suggested that it was an experimental nuclear-powered cruise missile designated as Skyfall by NATO and as Burevestnik — or Stormy Petrel — by the Russians.
A resident of Nyonoksa told ArkhangelskOnline that the village has been evacuated before, presumably because of the hazards of nearby tests or other military activity. Several years ago, the resident said, part of a burning missile fell on a house in the village and set it afire.
The website reported that military officials met with the villagers Monday and told them about the brief evacuation.
“They said that there were no changes in the radiation background and there was nothing to worry about,” said the resident, who asked not to be identified. “And that everything is fine both in our village and there, in the military town. The situation is checked by experts.”
In Moscow Tuesday, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said “security is fully ensured” for residents in the region by the relevant government agencies.
A short jump in gamma radiation was detected in the city of Severodvinsk immediately following the explosion, about 6 to 16 times the usual background dosage, a government agency called Rosprirodnadzor, or the Natural Resources Management Service, told 29.ru . The nuclear agency, Rosatom, said radiation levels there had briefly spiked at twice the usual dosage.
Peskov, in speaking with reporters, declined to offer specifics about the missile that exploded, as reported by the Interfax news agency. He did say that Russian officials were not surprised by Trump’s tweet declaring that the United States was working on “similar, though more advanced technology.”
“Our president has repeatedly said that the level of Russian projects is way higher than the level reached by other countries and is quite unique,” Peskov said.
A website called Dvina Today reported that on Monday evening 10 workers at the Arkhangelsk Regional Clinical Hospital, who had treated the victims of the explosion, flew to Moscow and were taken to the Federal Medical Biophysical Center. That was also where three nuclear workers who were hurt in the explosion are being treated for burns and other trauma. There was no word on why the Arkhangelsk doctors were taken there as well.
Frustration over the lack of information is evident. Nyonoksa residents have said no one has told them precisely why they must evacuate. Even the honors bestowed Monday on the dead nuclear workers seem to rankle some.
“Who at the moment are officially recognized as victims and heroes clearly showed in yesterday’s comment by representatives of military science: they are the test scientists themselves,” 29.ru declared. “The local people, if you read between the lines, are either random outsiders or unnecessary witnesses. In general — sit and do not buzz. And better — sit in silence on the train or even walk in the woods.
“Anyway, we wish fellow countrymen-northerners peace in the coming days, peace and health! And we just have to follow the messages of the central media on the Internet.”