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Some of Russian Spy Sub's Crewmembers Survived Fire

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A photo believed to show the Losharik circa 2007-2010 (MilitaryRussia.ru)

By The Maritime Executive 2019-07-03 13:52:17

A fire aboard a secret Russian submarine killed 14 crewmembers on Monday, but a portion of the crew survived, defense minister Sergei Shoigu said Tuesday. 

The minister did not specify how many submariners from the vessel were still alive, nor whether any of them had suffered injuries during the incident. However, he lauded the crew's bravery and said that they had saved the vessel from destruction through their "heroic" actions. “They evacuated a civilian expert from the compartment that was engulfed by fire and shut the door to prevent the fire from spreading further and fought for the ship’s survival until the end," Shoigu said. 

On Monday, fourteen submariners died of smoke inhalation after a fire broke out aboard a "research submersible vehicle designated for studying the seafloor . . . in the interests of the Russian Navy," the ministry said Tuesday. According to the ministry, the sub survived and was brought back to the base at Severomorsk, the home of Russia's Northern Fleet. Russian President Vladimir Putin has dispatched Shoigu to Severomorsk to personally oversee an investigation into the fire. 

In remarks to media, Putin said that seven of the victims held the rank of captain, and two of them were recipients of the "Hero of Russia" medal - the nation's equivalent of the U.S. military's Congressional Medal of Honor. The defense ministry released the names of the deceased on Wednesday, including: captains of the first rank Denis Dolonsky, Nikolai Filin, Vladimir Abankin, Andrey Voskresensky, Konstantin Ivanov, Denis Oparin and Konstantin Somov; captains of the second rank Alexander Avdonin, Sergey Danilchenko and Dmitry Solovyov; captains of the third rank Viktor Kuzmin, Vladimir Sukhinichev and Mikhail Zubkov; and Lieutenant-Colonel of Medical Services Alexander Vasilyev.

"This is a big loss for the fleet, for the [military] in general," Putin said. 

The Russian government has not confirmed reports that the vessel involved in the incident was the top secret submarine Losharik, a nuclear-powered, ultra-deep-diving submarine built for covert operations. Its capabilities are little known, and it is operated by the secretive Main Directorate for Deep Sea Research, which functions as a separate entity in the Russian Navy's hierarchy. "The main tasks that [the directorate faces] are listening to foreign underwater communication lines, lifting interesting weapons and military equipment from the depth, protecting our similar communications equipment - submarine cables from penetration," a ministry source told Russian news outlet RBC.