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20 killed in gas leak aboard Russian N-submarine

Russia's Nerpa nuclear attack submarine. Photo by RIA Novosti

MOSCOW (BNS): In a nuclear-powered Nerpa submarine that was to be handed over to India at the end of this year, 20 people, including three sailors, were killed in a gas leak during a sea trial while another 21 received injuries. This was the worst naval accident in Russia in the last 10 years.

A spokesman for the federal probe panel said on Saturday night that the autopsy results confirmed that the people had died as a result of inhaling Freon gas released when the fire-extinguishing system was activated in one of the submarine's compartments.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has ordered a high-level probe into the accident which occurred on Saturday aboard 'K-152 Nerpa', the worst since 2000 Kursk nuclear submarine mishap.

Naval spokesman Capt Igor Dygalo said there was no radiation leak. The sub has since returned to the base from the Pacific Ocean, with its reactor working in the normal mode.

There were 208 people, 81 of them servicemen, onboard the vessel at the time of the accident. The Nerpa submarine was to be handed over to India at the end of this year.

Capt Dygalo said the vessel had not been damaged. However, the Navy commander-in-chief has cancelled the conducting of further tests on the submarine.

The Russian President has ordered the Defence Ministry to conduct a detailed probe into the accident and provide all necessary assistance to the families of the victims.

Investigation team spokesperson Vladimir Markin said 20 people were killed, including three sailors and 17 civilian technicians, while 21 received injuries.

Meanwhile, a news channel reported that the nuclear submarine was to be commissioned later this year and an Indian crew was expected to arrive to take charge of the vessel. Christened as 'INS Chakra', the submarine was to be leased to India for ten years.

In 2000, the nuclear submarine Kursk, along with the 118 crew, had sunk in the Barents Sea after an explosion. Later in August 2003, nine of the ten sailors on board a K-159 submarine died when it sank in the Barents Sea.

The accident came at a time when Moscow was trying to restore the country's naval reputation amid strained relations with the West. A naval squadron is headed to Venezuela this month for joint exercises near US waters in a show of force.

In the meantime, the accident in the newly-built Russian nuclear-powered submarine has caused some concern in the Indian defence establishment which was looking to take on lease the vessel for ten years.

Speaking to media in New Delhi, Navy PRO Commander Nirad Sinha said at the moment, the submarine is a Russian vessel and all the crew members on board were Russians. "Indian Navy has nothing to do with the incident," he said.

However, both New Delhi and Moscow have been maintaining secrecy over the leasing of the nuclear-powered vessel K-152 Nerpa submarine. Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, who was in India for a meeting of Inter-Governmental Commission for Military-Technical Cooperation in the last week of September, had denied knowledge of a contract with India for leasing of the submarine.

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Brahmand World Defence Update 2023

Brahmand World Defence Update

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