This sounds like a typical David Copperfield illusion. A major city of 50,000 people suddenly disappears, then just as suddenly reappears, both with the obligatory magical cloud of smoke. Unfortunately, the magician wasn’t David Copperfield … it was Russian President Vladimir Putin waving the wand as the city of Severomorsk was completely blanketed in a mysterious fog as part of a naval operation to hide its fleet from enemy attacks. Or was it something even more sinister?

Severomorsk is the main administrative base of the Russian Northern Fleet located in the Arctic Circle on the coast of the Barents Sea, which is part of the Arctic Ocean. Besides ships and nuclear submarines, it’s home to a naval air base and a huge nuclear missile depot. Needless to say, it’s a critical part of the Russian military.

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Ship dispersing camouflage smoke

The Russian government gave Severomorsk residents a brief warning before this mysterious operation was to begin on August 10th. The Defense Ministry told the 50,000 residents to close their windows and be careful when driving. Oh, and don’t breath it.

Residents are asked to remain calm: the smoke mixture is not dangerous to humans, though, it has a particular smell.

Particular smell? A local TV station quoted a platoon commander who said the smoke was made from a mixture of diesel oil plume, additives and smoke from coke distilling. along with smoke grenades that told them which way the wind was blowing. Over 20 smoke machines on mobile trucks and on some ships in the port released the “particular” clouds simultaneously over the city and port.

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Truck releasing smoke

How did it work? According to local news reports (rough translation via Google):

Each device creates dense smoke screen covering every region over 1 km long, 50 -150 m high. After only a few tens of minutes, the smoke has covered the entire Northern Fleet warships, including cruisers Peter the Great nuclear-positive, as well as other military facilities

A military spokesperson said the devices could stay in operation for up to 14 hours and keep Severomorsk completely hidden for several days.


Diesel fumes, “particular smell” and days of manmade haze over a city don’t sound like a harmless military “smokescreen” operation, especially when some of the reports refer to the spreading smoke as “fumigation.”

Fumigation!!?? Is the Russian military testing poison gas or some new secret fumes on its own people? We may know more when the smoke clears. Then again, we may not.

What kind of government would do such a thing? Oh, never mind.

Paul Seaburn

Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.

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