Was it "merely" the explosion of a liquid-propellant rocket engine, as reported by the Russian defense ministry, that killed two people, injured six and caused an immediate spike in local radiation levels this past Thursday in the town of Severodvinsk? The Arkhangelsk region plays home to a military testing site and this is the official rendition of events given to Russian media.
However, MASH, an alternative Russian news source, provided video and photos that may tell a more chilling and suspenseful story. MASH's reportage seemed to contradict statements made by the defense ministry in showing images of emergency responders with Geiger counters and Hazmat suits along with an ambulance evacuating at least one person.
Люди в костюмах радиационной защиты измеряли фон вертолета. Когда убедились, что коптер не излучает и все в норме — приступили к выгрузке раненных. pic.twitter.com/LmoTm2yiJp— АНО Беллона (@Bellona_murman) August 8, 2019
Despite the claims made by the Ministry of Defense that harmful chemicals were not released into the atmosphere at the site of the blast, many are questioning whether the relatively small explosion that would be caused by a liquid-propellant could lead to the jump in background radiation levels that were recorded at roughly noon on the day of the blast, to say nothing of the lives lost and maimed.
Dvina Bay, a shipping bay in the White Sea, has been consequently closed for a month, multiple social media sources, though unconfirmed, report people in the area seeking medical treatment for radiation exposure, and initial readings have shown levels of radiation in the areas adjoining the blast to currently remain at a number 20 times higher than the average level for that region.
While shocking, this explosion represents the second of its kind to plague Russia just this week. An arms depot in Siberia saw 13 injured and 1 dead after a procession of blasts occurred at a military base. Watch the video below to learn more about Russia's long and checkered past with radioactivity and the nature of its impact on the country's history, people, and political identity.