MOSCOW: Fourteen Russian seamen were killed in a fire on a deep-water research submersible in the Artic port of Severomorsk, Russia’s defense ministry said Tuesday.
The event is the latest in a series of disasters and accidents to hit Russia’s navy and echoes the 2000 sinking of the Kursk submarine in the same Arctic port that killed 118.
The Kursk tragedy left a lasting scar on perceptions of the Russian military’s responsiveness to disasters and proved to be a major test for President Vladimir Putin who at the time was in his first year of office.
“On July 1, a fire broke out during bathymetric measurements on a scientific research deep-sea submersible,” a defense ministry spokeswoman said.
Fourteen crew died as a result of poisoning from the fumes of the fire in Russia’s territorial waters, the spokesperson said.
The fire has since been put out and an investigation conducted by commander-in-chief of the navy is under way, the defense ministry said.
In a terse statement, the Investigative Committee — which reports directly to Rusian Putin — said it was conducting a “pre-investigation probe”.
The vessel– designed to map and study the seafloor–was conducting research on areas near the seabed and the seabed itself in Russian waters in the interests of the Russian naval fleet, the ministry said.
The vessel is now at a military base in the closed northern city of Severomorsk which is located on the Kola Peninsula above the Arctic Circle.