PortandTerminal.com, July 2, 2019
In a rare public disclosure, Russia has revealed a fire onboard a top-secret navy submersible has left 14 sailors dead in an incident involving one of the country’s most shadowy military projects
MOSCOW, RUSSIA – Fourteen submariners on board a Russian Defense Ministry research vessel were killed in a fire while carrying out a survey of the seafloor, the ministry was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.
The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, cancelled a scheduled appearance and summoned his defence minister to be briefed on the situation. He has ordered an inquiry into the incident.
The deep-sea research vessel was carrying out a military survey in Russian territorial waters, the Defense Ministry was quoted as saying.
“On July 1 in Russian territorial waters a fire broke out onboard a deep-water scientific research vessel that was studying the marine environment of the world ocean on behalf of the Russian navy,” Interfax cited a ministry statement as saying.
“Fourteen submariners died as the result of smoke inhalation … Work is underway to establish the cause of the incident. The investigation is being conducted by the commander-in-chief of the navy.”
The fire was later put out, and the vessel is now at Severomorsk, the main base of the Russian Northern Fleet in the Murmansk region.
Several independent Russian media outlets, including RBC and Novaya Gazeta, identified the vessel involved in today’s incident as the Losharik, citing sources.
The Losharik is one of the most unique and capable in Russia’s naval fleet. It now appears to also hold the distinction of being the latest Russian naval ship to suffer a catastrophic — and, so far, unexplained — incident.
Vessels with deep-sea diving capabilities such as the Losharik are believed to be capable of “seabed warfare”, threatening underwater power and communications cables, as well as carrying out topographical research and performing rescue missions.
In a report on Russian naval capabilities, researchers at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies said such vessels “could be used to either tap or outright sever vital communications linkages either in the Baltic Sea or North Atlantic”.
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