It looks like Russia is trying to hide the truth about a nuclear accident in Nyonoksa that may be linked to a new ‘super weapon’ it is trying to develop

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News analysis
  • Evidence is mounting that Russia may be trying to cover up a tragic nuclear accident after a mysterious blast on August 8 killed as many as seven people at a Russian naval weapons site.
  • Russia has declined to say exactly what caused the deadly blast. But doctors who treated injured patients were reportedly not told of radiation risks, and authorities are said to have destroyed hospital records.
  • Four nuclear monitoring sites near the testing range mysteriously went offline shortly after the deadly blast, which one expert called a "very odd coincidence."
  • Western experts and intelligence officials believe the Nyonoksa explosion was caused by a failed test of the 9M730 Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile, a very dangerous doomsday weapon which NATO calls the SSC-X-9 Skyfall.
  • All signs seem to point to a classic cover-up of a suspected nuclear accident, which Russia has a long history of trying to bury.
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Evidence is mounting that Russia may be trying to cover up a tragic nuclear accident after a mysterious explosion killed as many as seven people at a Russian naval weapons testing range earlier this month.

Something - Russia has yet to say exactly what - mysteriously exploded at the Nyonoksa testing range on Russia's northern coast on August 8, and in the aftermath, a nearby town experienced a spike in radiation levels. Days later, local officials ordered an evacuation only to cancel it a few hours after the order went out.

Doctors who treated the Russian engineers injured in the explosion were not informed that their patients were radioactive. After providing treatment, one doctor was found to have a radioactive isotope in his muscle tissue, The Moscow Times reported Friday.

Furthermore, four nuclear monitoring sites nearby strangely went offline after the deadly Nyonoksa explosion. All signs are pointing to a classic Russian cover-up.

Russia's initial explanation for the explosion doesn't make sense

Russian media initially reported that a "liquid propellant rocket engine" exploded during testing. Western experts and intelligence officials aren't buying that as it doesn't explain the radiation spike.

The explosion is believed to have occurred during a test of the 9M730 Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile, a super weapon which NATO calls the SSC-X-9 Skyfall. US President Donald Trump, in a mysterious tweet that was without context, referred to the incident as the "Skyfall explosion."

Russian President Vladimir Putin boasted last year that the Burevestnik would be "invincible," asserting that the weapon would have "an unlimited range, unpredictable trajectory and ability to bypass interception." But, so far, Russia has had little success making it work. The US had a similar project in the 1960s - Project Pluto - but decided to pass on it because it was considered to be too dangerous, as well as too difficult to actually develop into a reliable weapon.

Following initial state media reports, Rosatom, Russia's state nuclear agency, revealed that Russia was working on "new weapons" when the explosion occurred, adding that this sort of thing "happens when testing new technologies." The Kremlin said the same, telling reporters that "accidents, unfortunately, happen."

Putin said Monday that there is no threat and that experts are monitoring the situation and taking preventive measures to avoid surprises.

Russia referred to those who were killed in the accident as "national heroes." It said the same when 14 Russian sailors died in a mysterious fire aboard a top-secret nuclear-powered submarine last month. But, the details of their purported heroism is being buried and kept a secret, from both the Russian people and the rest of the world.

Hospital staff were asked to sign non-disclosure agreements

In addition to doctors not being informed of the radiation risks, the hospital's medical staff were reportedly asked to sign non-disclosure agreements and the Russian security service is said to have deleted the hospital records.

Russian state media, citing the Ministry of Defense, initially reported that two specialists had died. Later, Rosatom, the state nuclear agency, revealed that five of their engineers had died in the explosion, bringing the death toll to seven. It remains unclear how many were injured or exposed to possibly harmful levels of radiation.

'A very odd coincidence'

The abrupt cessation of nuclear monitoring activities has raised more red flags. Lassina Zerbo, head of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization (CNBTO), told the Wall Street Journal that the facilities said they were having "communication and network issues."

Daryl Kimball, the executive director for the Arms Control Association called it a "very odd coincidence," explaining to the WSJ that Russia is probably trying to "obscure the technical details of the missile-propulsion system they are trying and failing to develop."

As Stephen Blank, a former professor of Russian national security studies at the US Army War College, noted in an op-ed last week, Russia has a tendency to object to transparency when dealing with nuclear accidents, and not just with Chernobyl but with a number of tragic incidents during the Cold War and even now.

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