Conflicting reports emerged on Tuesday, as Russian sources first reported that a village near the site of a missile accident was evacuated in the morning, but then backtracked, with a statement by the region's governor denying that any such evacuation ever took place.
According to an early report by local news channel TV29.ru, residents of Nyonoksa village were evacuated on Wednesday morning days after an explosion killed five during the testing of what Russia says was a liquid propellant rocket engine at a military site in Arkhangelsk in Russia's northwestern regions.
Locals quoted by TV29.ru said they received an order to evacuate for Wednesday morning by state-run news agency Interfax. "We have received a notification… about the planned activities of the military authorities. In this regard, residents of Nynoksa were asked to leave the territory of the village from August 14,"
But, the governor of the region, Igor Orlov, said, "This is complete nonsense, there is no evacuation." However, "planned measures" following the emergency declaration of the accident are still to be provided for.
Earlier, the Russian defence ministry denied that levels of radiation in the surrounding areas were above normal, following reports by the Russian meteorological service Rosgidromet that "gamma radiation levels 4-16 times above the background rate of the ambient dose equivalent for the given territory” were detected near Severodvinsk.
The blast killed five scientists who were working on missile-related tests of a new 'special product', according to Rosatom. The Rosatom statement on the incident said, "We have paid last respects to our colleagues who died tragically during tests of a new special product. They remained faithful till the bitter end and they passed away like true heroes."
International media outlets have speculated that the test was of a nuclear-powered missile, first announced in January of 2018 by Russian President Vladimir Putin as a type of ICBM with 'unlimited' range.