Putin in a hazmat suit Photograph:( Reuters )
Sarov has at least 23 coronavirus cases. The numbers for Elektrostal and Desnogorsk are not clear. Also unknown are the number of hospitals in these cities and their pandemic preparedness
The coronavirus has rattled Russia. The number of cases in the country is nearing the 100,000 milestone, the country's oil prices have collapsed and its economy is set to contract by 4 to 6 per cent.
In the latest, the coronavirus has begun spreading to Russia's nuclear cities. The secret cities are at high risk and they stand exposed. The coronavirus has exposed a lot of things. The exploitative nature of one superpower - China and the absolute lack of leadership in another - US. Loopholes in healthcare systems and prejudice in international organisations - the WHO.
Also lying exposed are Russia's secret cities. The Wuhan virus has sneaked its way past their fences and now Sarov, Elektrostal and Desnogorsk are infected.
The situation is so bad that a top Russian executive was forced to mention these cities during his address.
"The situation in Sarov, Elektrostal, Desnogorsk is today particularly alarming. In Sarov, the situation is being compounded by the outbreak in the nearest Diveyevo convent," Rosatom chief, Alexei Likhachev, said.
Sarov has at least 23 coronavirus cases. The numbers for Elektrostal and Desnogorsk are not clear. Also unknown are the number of hospitals in these cities and their pandemic preparedness. Not surprising, given everything around these cities is blurry. Sarov, Elektostal, and Desnogorsk are among Russia's many secret cities.
They are highly restricted, so much so that they weren't shown on the map until the breakup of the Soviet Union in the 1990s. These cities were excluded from train and bus routes.
They were known only by their postal codes. Sarov, for example, was Arzamas-16. No one knew who lived there. The lives of its residents were as secretive as those of KGB agents. For years, the Russian government rewarded the residents of its secret cities with numerous perks - private apartments, well-paying jobs and good healthcare.
These cities are closely linked to Russia's nuclear industry. They are managed by Russia's state atomic energy corporation - Rosatom.
Sarov became a closed city after World War-II. Once known for its monastery, the city was quickly turned into a rocket-making hub. It's monastery buildings were converted into rocket factories.
Today, Sarov is home to one of Russia's top research institutes. The city is fenced, patrolled by the military and no one can enter without a pass. Last year, five scientists from the research institute died in a mysterious accident. No one knew what had happened. Russia said there was an accident during a rocket engine test.
The United States claimed it was a missile test gone wrong. Today, these secret cities are becoming coronavirus hotspots. Russia says it is sending emergency ventilators and medical aids to its nuclear cities but truth be told - we may never know what's really going on there.