From the promenade at the water’s edge in the city of Arkhangelsk, a view opens of the broad, fast-flowing Northern Dvina River and a smudge of greenery on the far bank.
About 40 miles in that direction, a still mysterious nuclear accident last week released radiation, killed at least seven people and tripped radiation meters in two cities, including Arkhangelsk.
Yet there they were, Ilya and Yelena Ivanov, pushing a baby stroller on the embankment along with dozens of other new parents, taking in a cool, moist breeze blowing off the water.
“It is worth worrying about,” Yelena said of the radiation release. But the baby, 1-year-old Marina, needed air and besides, she said, nobody had warned against going outside.
Ilya held a different view: That if there really was something to worry about, people would know.
“They cannot hide anything,” he said of the government, despite the official silence on details of the incident on Aug. 8 that apparently involved the explosion of an experimental, nuclear-propelled missile known in the West as the “Skyfall.”
“We aren’t living in the 1980s,” Ilya said. “We are a contemporary society.”
In fact, experts on nuclear safety say, there is no means to settle the parents’ debate. Scant public comments from the Russian authorities offer too few technical details to assess safety for communities near the explosion. Without knowing the radioactive substances used in the missile, the nature of the fallout also remains unclear, experts say.
Arkhangelsk, a port with a rich history stretching back to medieval Russia, this week became a city of home remedies for radiation.
On Friday, the Ministry of Emergency Situations, a Russian agency responsible for civil defense, issued a daily update on the Arkhangelsk region saying that “the radiation, chemical and bacteriological situation is normal.”