A RUSSIAN submarine on which 14 people were killed in a fire on Monday was a nuclear-power spy vessel, Russian media has reported.
The country’s ministry of defence said after the incident that the ship involved had been a “research submersible vehicle designated for studying the seafloor…in the interests of the Russian Navy”.
But Russian media outlets have now said the vessel was in fact part of a class of nuclear-powered submarines whose designs and capabilities have been the subject of speculation and interest in the West for years.
It has been reported the craft was an AS-12 submarine, capable of diving to an estimated 6,100 as well as attaching itself to the belly of larger subs to avoid detection, RFERL reports.
The AS-12 has been described by the Pentagon as a “sabotage vehicle” capable of destroying underwater communications cables.
At the time of the incident, the ship is reported to have been operating in Russia’s territorial waters in the Barents Sea, which sits between Russia, Norway, and the Arctic Ocean.
Norwegian authorities said on Tuesday they had not detected abnormally high levels of radiation in the area.
Per Strand, a director at the Norwegian Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority, said Russian officials had told his agency that a gas explosion took place on board.
The Kremlin said today that details of the fire will not be made public they involve classified information, but has denied claims of a gas explosion.
FUMES, POISONING, AND CONCUSSION
The Russian defence ministry said on Monday that the sailors were poisoned by fumes after the vessel caught fire while taking biometric measurements yesterday.
Up to five survivors were rescued from the submarine and taken to a military hospital with smoke poisoning and concussion.
A total of seven first rank captains were among the dead.
One was Denis Dolonski, who was part of a military unit based near St Petersburg and was awarded the Hero of Russia, the country’s highest honour, six years ago for “Arctic and Antarctic research works”.
Another was Nikolay Filin, a tester of deep sea military equipment and another Hero of Russia recipient.
A third was Andrey Voskresensky, the son-in-law of Russian rear admiral Vladimir Bederdinov.
The vessel was based out of the Northern Fleet main port of Severomorsk in Murmansk.
An investigation into the incident is now underway.
Russian news agency TASS quoted President Putin as having said: “This is a big loss for the fleet, and in general for the army.”
“The crew was highly professional…of the 14 dead, seven were first rank captains and two were Heroes of Russia.”
He added: “It is not an ordinary vessel, as we know.
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“It is a scientific-research vessel, its crew is highly professional.”
He also sent defence minister Sergei Shoigu to report directly on the progress of the investigation.
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