President Vladimir Putin announces approval of Russia's coronavirus vaccine but scientists warn it may be unsafe.
A new coronavirus vaccine on display at the Nikolai Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow, Russia.
Credit: Alexander Zemlianichenko Jr/ Russian Direct Investment Fund via AP
Medical workers draw blood from volunteers participating in a trial of a coronavirus vaccine at the Budenko Main Military Hospital outside Moscow, Russia.
Credit: Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP
It's one of the nation's worst oil spills on record.
- The accident occurred in the Siberian city of Norilsk.
- The company said thawing permafrost caused a fuel tank to collapse.
- Thawing permafrost poses a major threat to Russia's oil industry, which is the world's third largest.
Greenpeace Russia<p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The incident led to catastrophic consequences, and we will be seeing the repercussions for years to come," Sergey Verkhovets, coordinator of Arctic projects for WWF Russia, <a href="https://wwf.ru/en/resources/news/zelenaya-ekonomika/wwf-razliv-diztopliva-v-norilske-trebuet-federalnogo-vmeshatelstva-/" target="_blank">said in a statement</a>. "We are talking about dead fish, polluted plumage of birds and poisoned animals."</p><p>Greenpeace <a href="https://www.npr.org/2020/06/04/869936256/russian-power-plant-spills-thousands-of-tons-of-oil-into-arctic-region" target="_blank">said</a> the clean-up won't do much good:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The booms that were set up will only collect an insignificant part of the pollution, so we can assert that almost all of the diesel fuel will remain in the environment."</p><p>Norilsk Nickel, the owner of the power plant, said the fuel tank collapsed because of "abnormally mild temperatures" in the permafrost.</p>
How climate change threatens Russian oil<p>Russia, the world's fourth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, is especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The nation is warming <a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/news/russian-government-acknowledges-climate-change-publishes-a-plan-outlining-its-positives/" target="_blank">two and a half times faster</a> than the rest of the planet, and in recent years it's suffered costly floods and <a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/news/siberia-wildfires-russia-potential-disaster-climate-change-both-feed-off-and-contribute-to-warming-greenpeace/" target="_blank">wildfires</a>.</p><p>Thawing permafrost in Siberian regions poses a major threat to Russia's oil industry, which is the world's third largest. One key reason, as evidenced by last week's accident, is that melting permafrost jeopardizes the structural integrity of oil-field infrastructure.</p><p>Of course, when oil infrastructure is jeopardized, so is the environment. That's why Greenpeace Russia is calling for increased environmental regulations and unscheduled audits of oil producers in the nation's Arctic region.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Environmental control should be strengthened, and the operation of facilities should be under special control to prevent accidents, especially in the conditions of melting permafrost due to global climate change," the organization said in a <a href="https://greenpeace.ru/news/2020/06/02/do-i-posle-avarija-na-tajmyre-v-kosmosnimkah/" target="_blank">statement.</a></p>
Strange bone circles made from mammoths revealed clues about how ancient communities survived Europe's last ice age.
- Archaeologists found new clues to the purpose of the bone circles in Russia and Ukraine from the last Ice Age.
- The previous theories assumed they were used for dwellings.
- The new finds indicate they were used partially for fuel and had remains of different plants.
Kostenki 11 site in the Russian Plains.
Credit: Alex Pryor
New findings show that Russian explosion was from a nuclear reactor.
- Nuclear experts confirm that the Russian explosion that occurred earlier in August was likely from a nuclear reactor.
- Rapidly decaying radioactive isotopes were found in the surrounding area.
- A number of independent researchers confirmed the findings.
Russia’s continual nuclear coverups<p>The initial August 8th blast killed five scientists with an additional spike in radiation levels. It took a few days before Russia admitted any nuclear materials were involved. Russian media channels initially reported that the explosions were due to a liquid propellant jet engine. Western scientists and other officials were quick to doubt this statement.</p><p>Russia's nuclear agency, Rosatom, eventually announced that the specialists killed in the accident were developing new kinds of weapons with an isotope power source. </p><p>A string of unethical things happened following the accident. An independent newspaper, <a href="https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2019/08/16/exclusive-russian-doctors-say-they-werent-warned-patients-were-nuclear-accident-victims-a66896" target="_blank"><em>The Moscow Times</em> reported</a> that doctors who treated engineers hurt during the explosion were not told their patients were covered in radioactive material. </p><p>Additionally, in the aftermath of the explosion, several nuclear monitoring stations in Russia cut out and went offline. It was reported that doctors were forced to sign nondisclosure agreements, while some hospital records were also destroyed. One doctor even found cesium-137 in his muscle tissue, which Russian media channels quickly dismissed. </p><p>These set of facts suggest a cover-up job, <a href="https://bigthink.com/politics-current-affairs/russia-nuclear-evacuation" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">something of which Russia has a long history of initiating</a>.</p>
Courageousness of whistleblowers<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="216a561f790d703c33c46001210bb705"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/0A80-ZSKvSw?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>If it wasn't for <a href="https://thebarentsobserver.com/en/security/2019/08/severodvinsk-authorities-confirm-mysterious-brief-radiation-spike-after-missile" target="_blank">scattered Russian social media posts</a> showing first responders in hazardous material protection suits and a handful of heroic experts uncovering the facts, this crucial information might have slipped through the cracks.</p><p>Norwegian nuclear safety expert Nils Bøhmer is confident that the new information removes any doubts. Speaking with <em>The Barrents Observer</em>, told reporters that, "The presence of decay products like barium and strontium is coming from a nuclear chain reaction. It is a proof that is was a nuclear reactor that exploded."</p><p>He explains that the mixture of short-lived isotopes wouldn't be there if Russian authorities were only using a regular propellant engine with just an "isotope source." </p><p>Russia has been known to be testing two types of weapons systems which could include a nuclear reactor: both the Burevestnik cruise missile and Poseidon underwater drone may fit the bill. </p><p>Alexander Uvarov, editor of independent news site AtomInfo.ru also spoke out and told <a href="https://www.timesofisrael.com/liveblog_entry/russia-says-radioactive-isotopes-released-by-missile-test-blast/" target="_blank">news agency RIA Novosti</a> that these isotopes are byproducts of nuclear fission which involved uranium.</p>
Health issues from nuclear fallout<p>Yuri Dubrova an expert on the effects of radiation on the human body also spoke with <em>The Moscow Times</em>. Dubrova said that patients brought into the hospital after the nuclear incident most likely had a high dose of nuclear isotopes on their skin.</p><p>Since not all the facts are straight, there's no way to determine how many doctors or immediate residents were affected by the high doses of radiation.</p><p>"If the dosage wasn't very high, the person should be able to fully recover within a week if they are given clean food and water. Exposure to Caesium-137 is quite preventable — all you need to do is wash the patient really well. But the doctors were made vulnerable to radiation because they hadn't been told what had happened," he said.</p><p>After Russia's consumer safety watchdog Rospotrebnadzor and the Emergency Situations Ministry inspected the hospital a few days later, it was declared safe. </p><p>It looks like a potential Chernobyl situation has been narrowly missed. It'll be important for experts to monitor the situation as we glean more information and continually stay vigilant to ensure Russia is held accountable for these potentially cataclysmic nuclear events.</p>
The Russian-built FEDOR was launched on a mission to help ISS astronauts.
- Russia launched a spacecraft carrying FEDOR, a humanoid robot.
- Its mission is to help astronauts aboard the International Space Station.
- Such androids can eventually help with dangerous missions likes spacewalks.