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Five nuclear agency staff died in Russia missile test explosion

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Russia said Saturday an explosion at an Arctic missile testing site killed five nuclear agency staff and involved radioactive isotopes after a nearby city reported a spike in radiation levels.

In a statement, Russia’s nuclear agency Rosatom said the accident on Thursday at a secret military facility also left three staff with burns and other injuries.

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The military had not previously described the accident as involving nuclear fuel and said radiation levels were normal afterwards.

But officials in the nearby city of Severodvinsk reported that radiation levels were briefly raised after the accident.

The accident occurred in the far northern Arkhangelsk region during testing of a liquid propellant jet engine. An explosion sparked a fire, killing two, the defense ministry said in a brief statement.

Rosatom said its staff were providing engineering and technical support for the “isotope power source” of the engine being tested.

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The authorities have released few details of the accident at the Nyonoksa test site on the White Sea, used for testing missiles deployed in nuclear submarines and ships since the Soviet era.

The defense ministry said six defense ministry employees and a developer were injured while two “specialists” died of their wounds.

AFP /Moscow

It was not immediately clear whether the death toll reported by Rosatom included the fatalities announced earlier by the defense ministry.

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Russian state news agencies quoted a defense ministry source as saying both defense ministry and Rosatom employees were killed.

– Radiation spike –

The authorities in Severodvinsk, 30 kilometers (19 miles) from the test site, said on their website on Thursday that automatic radiation detection sensors in the city “recorded a brief rise in radiation levels” around noon that day.

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The post was later taken down and the defense ministry said that radiation levels were normal after the accident.

An official responsible for civil defense, Valentin Magomedov, told TASS state news agency on Thursday that radiation levels rose to 2.0 microsieverts per hour for half an hour from 11:50 am (0850 GMT), before falling sharply.

He said this exceeded the permitted limit of 0.6 microsieverts, TASS reported.

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Greenpeace Russia published a letter from officials at a Moscow nuclear research centre giving the same figure, but saying higher radiation levels lasted for an hour. The officials said this did not present any significant risk to public health.

Russian online media published unattributed video that journalists said showed a line of ambulances speeding through Moscow to take the injured to a centre that specializes in the treatment of radiation victims.

Rosatom said that the injured were being treated at a “specialized medical centre”.

– Iodine panic –

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An expert from Moscow’s Institute for Nuclear Research, Boris Zhuikov, told RBK independent news site that isotope power sources are mainly used in spacecraft and are not usually dangerous for people working with them.

“If they are damaged, people who are nearby could be hurt. Isotope sources use various types of fuel: plutonium, promethium or cerium,” Zhuikov said.

The radioactivity levels involved are “absolutely not comparable with those during serious accidents at reactors,” he added.

The news of the accident prompted residents of Severodvinsk to rush to pharmacies on Thursday to stock up on iodine, which can be taken to stop the thyroid gland absorbing radiation.

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“People started to panic. Within a matter of an hour all the iodine and iodine-containing drugs were sold out,” pharmacist Yelena Varinskaya told AFP.

The Soviet Union saw the world’s worst nuclear accident at Chernobyl in 1986, when the authorities sought to cover up the seriousness of the disaster.


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Iran accuses foreign forces of raising Gulf ‘insecurity’ — but doesn’t mention Trump by name

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President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday denounced the presence of foreign forces in the Gulf and said Iran will present a peace plan, after its arch-foe Washington ordered reinforcements to the tense region.

"Foreign forces can cause problems and insecurity for our people and for our region," Rouhani said before a military parade commemorating the Iran-Iraq war.

Rouhani also said Iran would present a peace plan to the United Nations within days.

"In this sensitive and important historical moment, we announce to our neighbours that we extend the hand of friendship and brotherhood to them," he said.

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2020 Election

Trump holds mass rally with Indian Prime Minister that was more like a campaign event than official one

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US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday declared themselves united in a relentless fight against "terrorism," vowing a close, personal alliance in front of tens of thousands of Indian-Americans.

The two leaders, like-minded nationalists fond of fiery rallies and skeptical of traditional media, heaped praise on each other in an unusual joint appearance inside a football stadium in Houston.

To the bhangra beats of four drummers in saffron turbans, Trump in his dark suit and Modi in a yellow kurta and vest made a grand entrance with arms clenched together to ecstatic cheers from a crowd estimated by organizers at 50,000.

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Here’s how the law governing whistleblowers applies to the Trump Ukraine complaint

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This week it was revealed that President Donald Trump did something so concerning that an intelligence staffer felt the need to report the incident and file for whistleblower protections.

Trump asked Ukraine to look into scandals about former Vice President Joe Biden's son Hunter. For nearly a year, Trump's former attorney Rudy Giuliani was admittedly working to persuade officials in Ukraine to find "dirt" on the Bidens that they could use in the election. While the accusations against the younger Biden have been disproven, it's suspected, but not confirmed, that this was the incident detailed in the complaint.

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