Days after a mysterious explosion at a Russian naval test site caused radiation detectors to briefly spike, several monitoring stations have gone silent, raising fears Moscow is hiding the extent of the blast that killed five people.
Officials at the Vienna-based Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) say that four of the five nuclear monitoring stations in Russia have mysteriously stopped transmitting data.
Lassina Zerbo, executive secretary of the CTBTO, said on Twitter that two station operators said they were experiencing “technical problems.”
“Experts continue to reach out to our collaborators in Russia to resume station operations as expediently as possible,” an unnamed senior CTBTO official added in an interview with CNN on August 19.
The August 8 explosion near Nyonoksa, the village where a military testing site is located on the White Sea, sent intelligence analysts from Washington to Brussels to Oslo scrambling to figure out what happened.
In the days after the mishap, civilian and military authorities gave conflicting information as to what exactly occurred, how many casualties there were, and where the recorded spike in radiation came from and whether it was dangerous.
Monitoring stations in the nearby shipbuilding port of Severodvinsk recorded the brief spike in radiation levels in the hours after the explosion, but Russian officials have emphasized that there was no danger to public health.
Monitors in Norway, hundreds of kilometers to the northwest, detected a small increase in airborne radioactive iodine in the days that followed, but they have not linked it to the Nyonoksa explosion.
Several analysts have suggested that the item involved in the explosion may have been a nuclear-powered cruise missile dubbed the Burevestnik in Russian, which President Vladimir Putin boasted was under development last year.
Speaking at an August 19 meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, Putin said there was no risk of increased radiation levels because of the incident, adding that all of those injured and killed in the blast would receive state awards.
U.S. President Donald Trump has added to the speculation by posting a Tweet stating outright it was the Burevestnik, known by NATO analysts under the name Skyfall.
Other analysts said it might not be a nuclear-propelled, super-fast cruise missile, but a “radioisotope thermoelectric generator” used to generate power for a missile and its components.