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  • Fourteen Russian Sailors Killed in Submarine Fire: Ministry
Published 2 July 2019

The incident was the deadliest involving a Russian naval submarine since August 2000, when the nuclear-powered Kursk sank to the floor of Barents Sea after two explosions in its bow, killing all 118 men aboard.

Fourteen Russian sailors were killed when a fire broke out while their deep-water research submarine was carrying out a survey of the sea floor near the Arctic, the Russian defense ministry said on Tuesday.

A Russian media outlet, RBC, cited an unnamed military source as saying the submarine was nuclear-powered, but Russian officials made no comment on the type of vessel involved.

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The incident was the deadliest involving a Russian naval submarine since August 2000, when the nuclear-powered Kursk sank to the floor of Barents Sea after two explosions in its bow, killing all 118 men aboard.

The latest incident also took place in the vicinity of the Barents Sea. Authorities in nearby Norway said they were monitoring but had not detected abnormally high levels of radiation.

“This is a great loss for the navy,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a televised meeting with his defense minister, Sergei Shoigu.

“We express our deepest condolences to the families of those who died. We will do everything we can to support them,” said Putin, who canceled a public engagement on Tuesday afternoon to deal with the incident.

Putin told Shoigu to fly to Severomorsk, the Russian naval base on the Barents Sea where the submarine is now located, to find out what caused the incident, and then report back to him.

The incident took place on Monday in Russian territorial waters and the fire has been extinguished, the Russian defense ministry said earlier

“Fire broke out on board a deep-water scientific research vessel that was studying the marine environment of the world ocean on behalf of the Russian navy,” Interfax news agency cited a ministry statement as saying. “Fourteen submariners died as the result of smoke inhalation.”

The defense ministry did not identify the type or model of the vessel. At their meeting, Shoigu and Putin also made no mention of the type of vessel, or whether it was nuclear-powered.

The RBC news outlet said it was a vessel known by the designation AS-12, which is powered by a nuclear reactor and is designed to carry out special operations at depths where regular submarines cannot operate.

Norwegian officials said they had been in touch with their Russian counterparts but had not been able to establish the type of vessel.

“We have made checks and we are not monitoring too high radiation levels in the area,” Per Strand, a director at the Norwegian Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority, told Reuters.

He said Russian officials had told his agency that a gas explosion took place on board the submarine.

Russia denied this piece of information later on Tuesday. The Interfax news agency quoted the defense ministry as saying that it had not reported a gas explosion to the Norwegian side.

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