The cities are closely linked to the Russian nuclear industry, managed by the Rosatom company. Many are closed to foreigners, and Russians need special permission to enter them because the facilities there are well-kept secrets.
Rosatom chief Alexei Likhachev said special deliveries of ventilators and personal protective equipment (PPE) were being sent to the closed city of Sarov, east of Moscow, and to other cities where dozens of virus cases have been recorded.
” This [pandemic] creates a direct threat to our nuclear cities. The situation in Sarov, Elektrostal [and] Desnogorsk is particularly alarming today, “he said in an online speech to workers in the Russian nuclear industry.
“The situation in Sarov is exacerbated by an outbreak of disease in the nearby monastery of Diveyevo,” he said, without further details.
Likhachev made his remarks the day that Russia reported its largest daily increase in new cases of coronavirus. Russia now ranks eighth in the world with 93,558 confirmed cases, although its death toll of 867 is still far below that of many other countries.
Moscow, which accounts for more than half of Russia’s cases, and many other regions have imposed residence orders to curb the spread of the virus.
Sarov, who was so secretive that he did not appear on the maps before the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, remains an important part of the Russian nuclear military complex, according to defense experts.
It houses a research institute that gained importance last year when five of its scientists died in a mysterious accident at a military test site in the Far North.
Rosatom said the incident occurred during a rocket engine test on a marine platform. Some American experts have said they suspect it is a botched test of a new missile touted by President Vladimir Putin.
Rosatom said last week that seven people at the Sarov Pan-Russian Institute for Scientific Research in Experimental Physics had been diagnosed with coronavirus, bringing the total number of cases in the city – which has about 95,000 residents – to 23.
He said the epidemic in Sarov started when a retired couple returned to the city from a Russian vacation spot, and more than 100 people have since been isolated to prevent its spread.