Russian authorities ordered the evacuation of a village near where a nuclear reactor exploded last week, Russian state news agency RIA-Novosti reported Tuesday, citing a local official. Military officials reportedly told residents the evacuation of Nyonoksa is not connected to the explosion, and was instead due to planned military activities. Moscow has a history of covering up and downplaying nuclear accidents. Most notably, the official death toll for the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine in 1986—which most observers believe caused at least 100,000 fatal cancer cases—stands at 31.
Authorities have admitted that nearby radiation levels in the city of Severodvinsk were as much as 16 times the normal, details of which the Kremlin has been drip-feeding to the outside world. Reuters reports Greenpeace observers measured the Severodvinsk radiation level at 20 times normal. Russia has said the Aug. 8 accident involved a rocket test on a sea platform, and bestowed posthumous awards on five nuclear scientists who died in the mysterious blast. Some observers suspect the accident occurred during the testing of a new nuclear-powered cruise missile.