Fourteen Killed In Fire On Russian Navy Submersible

Fourteen Killed In Fire On Russian Navy Submersible
The Russian Defense Ministry says the crew members died of smoke inhalation. (illustrative photo)
Russia's Defense Ministry says a fire on one of its deep-sea research submersibles has killed 14 crew members.

The ministry said on July 2 that the tragedy took place the previous day as the vessel was carrying out a survey in Russian territorial waters.

Russia’s RBC news outlet quoted a military source as identifying the vessel as the Losharik AS-12 nuclear-powered submarine, although the Defense Ministry has not identified the type of vessel involved.

When the Losharik was launched in the early 2000s, details of the vessels were considered highly secret. One report said it was capable of diving 2,500 meters under the sea.

Russian media reported that the Losharik is carried under the hull of a mother submarine, the nuclear-powered Belgorod.
Russia in April launched the special-purpose Belgorod, which is believed capable of carrying nuclear-tipped underwater drones capable of threatening U.S. coastal cities.

The RBC report said the incident occurred in the evening hours of July 1.
Per Strand, a director at the Norwegian Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority, told Reuters that his agency had not seen any raised levels of radiation in the area of the submarine accident. He said Norwegian authorities had been told by their Russian counterparts that a “gas explosion” had occurred on board the vessel.
A Russian Defense Ministry statement said that the sailors died as a result of inhaling combustible fumes aboard the research vessel, which was conducting measurements on the floor of the ocean.
The report did not say how many crew members were aboard. It said the fire was put out by other crew members.

The submersible is now at a navy base in the northwestern city of Severomorsk near Murmansk on the Barents Sea, officials said.

An investigation has been launched, the ministry said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that President Vladimir Putin has canceled a previous engagement and is planning to meet with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu soon.

AFP cited a military expert speaking on condition of anonymity as doubting that the vessel was on a scientific research mission.

"Usually it's a cover for different type of work conducted on the seabed," like laying cables, the expert said.
Another expert speculated that missions of this type can be conducted to disrupt communication cables already placed on the seabed by other countries.
In the same region in 2000, all 118 crew members aboard the Kursk, a Russian nuclear-powered submarine, were killed after the vessel sank to the floor of the Barents Sea following two explosions in a tragedy that gripped the nation at the time.
With reporting by and Current Time, AP, AFP, Reuters. RIA, Interfax, and TASS

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