Russian Nuclear-powered Missile Accident: Doctor Claims Medical Staff Were Not Warned About Radiation Risk, 'Left to Fend for Themselves'

Medical personnel who treated victims of this month's fatal accident at a Russian nuclear-powered missile testing site were not warned about the potential radiation and not properly equipped to ensure their safety, newly-uncovered social media posts from a doctor who was on the scene suggest.

A report from The Moscow Times details Vkontakte social media network posts made by Igor Semin, a cardiovascular surgeon at the Arkhangelsk Regional Clinical Hospital, where victims of the August 8 accident were taken.

The newspaper reported his posts—uploaded on August 14—were the first public accounts of the mysterious incident, which killed at least five people and injured six others, according to the BBC. The explosion occurred at the Nyonoksa test range on an offshore rig, and caused a 16-fold spike in local radioactivity levels.

Anonymous sources from inside the hospital have already suggested that medical staff there were not warned by authorities that patients may have been irradiated. Instead, they were told to "get to work" and treat the victims regardless of their misgivings.

Semin's posts echoed these reports. "My colleagues found themselves in front of the victims with jack s***, not even a simple respirator," he wrote. "No one said anything [to the doctors]; they weren't even warned. They were abandoned and left to fend for themselves."

The Moscow Times spoke with two other doctors at the hospital who confirmed that Semin was on duty, though they said he was not in charge of treating the three patients taken there. Three others were taken to be treated at the Semashko hospital in Arkhangelsk, which the BBC noted is equipped to deal with radiation injuries.

The Russian government has refused to comment on reports that medical staff were not warned or equipped to deal with the patients. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday that the government would not comment on anonymous reports.

"We can't discuss this case anonymously," Peskov said, according to the Meduza news website. "As for the opinions of these individual doctors, then of course we need to know what the opinions are and specifically whose opinions [they are]," he continued.

The explosion is believed to have involved the new 9M730 Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile—codenamed "Skyfall" by NATO. Russian President Vladimir Putin has previously claimed that the weapon would have unlimited range.

Russia's state nuclear energy company, Rosatom, explained that the test involved a "radio-isotope propellant source." Engineers had reportedly finished a planned test when a fire suddenly broke out and the rocket's engine exploded, throwing the victims from the platform into the sea.

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This file photo shows a Russian Topol-M intercontinental ballistic missiles drive at Red Square in Moscow on May 7, 2019, during a rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade. This month's accident occurred during testing for a new cruise missile. ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images/Getty