Russian Federation submersible fire 'was in battery compartment'

Jul 06, 2019, 01:36
Russian Federation submersible fire 'was in battery compartment'

The fire aboard the "Losharik" AS-31 submersible began in the battery compartment and spread through the vessel, Shoigu told Putin during a meeting in the Kremlin, which was later broadcast on Russian television.

Citing unnamed sources, Russian news outlets RBK and Novaya Gazeta reported that the vessel was the Losharik (AS-12 or AS-31), a highly advanced submarine created to cut undersea communication cables. It added that the fire was extinguished thanks to the crew's self-sacrifice, and the submersible is now at the Arctic port of Severomorsk, the main base of Russia's Northern Fleet.

It is also believed that Russian Federation is using the submarines to stake its claim on the Arctic Sea, a region rich in oil and gas reserves.

Officials have given little information about the vessel or the circumstances of the accident, with local media reporting the ship was a secretive nuclear-powered mini-submarine.

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The Reuters news agency said Russian officials "have faced accusations of trying to cover up the full details of the accident" that happened during what the defense ministry called a survey of the sea floor near the Arctic.

Russian media has reported in one account that the 14 crew gave their lives attempting to save the submarine.

"The Supreme Commander-in-Chief has all the information, but this data can not be made public, because this refers to the category of absolutely classified data", Peskov said, according to the state-run Tass Russian News Agency.

"There has not been any formal communication from Russian Federation to us about this", Per Strand, a director at the Norwegian Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority, told Reuters when asked if it had been informed that the submarine was nuclear-powered.

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President Vladimir Putin said seven of the dead were Captain First Rank officers - the most senior staff officers in the Russian navy. It collected samples from a depth of 2,500 meters (8,202 feet), according to official statements at the time. Shoigu noted that the crew had acted "heroically" and primarily rescued a civilian aboard the submersible after which they continued struggling for the vessel's survivability.

Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov refused to answer questions about the vessel's name, design, and mission, saying the information is confidential.

United States authorities have previously accused Russian Federation of attempting to intercept or sabotage communications via the Losharik's extraordinary deep sea capabilities to tamper with or even sever underwater cables.

In August 2000, the Kursk submarine sunk in the Barents Sea with the loss of all 118 aboard.

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Russia's military has been developing new submarines as part of a broader push for new defence hardware under Putin that has also included hypersonic missiles and naval drones. They are operated by the Russian military's Chief Directorate for Deep Water Research - the GUGI - often referred to as the country's "underwater intelligence service".

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