Russia has honoured five nuclear experts and “national heroes” who died in a mysterious explosion at sea during a rocket engine test, authorities said on Sunday August 11th.
Although officials provided no information about the blast on a platform in the White Sea off northern Russia, US-based nuclear experts said they suspected the explosion occurred during the testing of a nuclear-powered cruise missile vaunted by President Vladimir Putin last year.
The rocket’s fuel caught fire, causing it to detonate and knock several people into the sea.
“The testers are national heroes,” said Valentin Kostyukov, head of a nuclear centre, which is part of Russia’s state nuclear agency Rosatom.
“These people were the elite of the Russian Federal Nuclear Centre and have tested under some of the most incredibly difficult conditions,” he added, according to a statement from Rosatom.
The five, who worked for the centre based at the closed city of Sarov, will be given state awards, Kostyukov said, without specifying what. Sarov’s administration announced two days of mourning, saying the experts died while “performing the task of national importance”.