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Russia says radiation levels have increased in an area around an explosion of weapons testing

According to the country's meteorological service, the radiation levels near the site of the deadly explosion of a nuclear-powered missile being tested in Russia have been multiplied by up to 16 times normal.

Thursday's blast on the White Sea coast in Nyonska killed five scientists from the Russian nuclear agency, who then confirmed they were testing new weapons. More victims were hospitalized.

Rosgidromet, the weather monitoring service, said its sensors in Severodvinsk, a town about 20 km from the test site, had recorded gamma radiation exceeding background levels of "four to 16 times," according to the BBC.

One of the sensors recorded a level of 1.78 microsieverts per hour, well above the local average of 0.11 microsieverts, but well below dangerous levels.

Levels – which were higher in six of his eight stations in Severodvinsk – returned to normal after two and a half hours, the service said.

The Ministry of Defense initially stated that background radiation remained normal after the accident. Local officials in Severodvinsk initially reported that there had been a brief increase in radiation levels, but then insisted that they were not above the norm.

Greenpeace said the levels had been multiplied by 20.

The Russian nuclear company Rosatom said its workers were supporting the "source of isotopic energy" from a missile and had been thrown into the sea by the force of the explosion.

US experts have associated the incident with the 9M730 Burevestnik nuclear cruise missile, known to NATO as the SSC-X-9 Skyfall, which President Vladimir Putin had boasted earlier this year.

On Monday, President Trump said that the United States "learns a lot" from the blast and claimed that Washington had "similar technology, albeit more advanced."

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov did not confirm on Tuesday that the accident was linked to the Burevestnik project, but said Russian research and development in the field of nuclear-powered missiles "exceed significantly the level reached by other countries and are rather unique, "according to the newspaper. AFP.

At the same time, conflicting information was exchanged as to the evacuation of Nyonska residents on Tuesday.

Some locals told the local media that they had been asked to leave their homes Wednesday before scheduled military exercises. Officials in Severodvinsk appeared to confirm an eviction order cited by the Interfax news agency.

Other Russian officials, however, dismissed reports of an evacuation, the governor of the region, Igor Orlov, calling them "foolishness" – and the government of Severodvinsk, quoted by Interfax, said that the army had canceled the project to conduct tests in Nyonska.

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