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Russian Sub Rescued With Crew Alive

(file photo) Prague, 7 August 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Russia today expressed "profound thanks" to Great Britain, Japan, and the United States for their role in saving the lives of seven Russian sailors who were trapped in a submarine for three days on the Pacific Ocean floor.

On 5 August, a British remote-controlled undersea vehicle was flown from Scotland to Russia's Far East coast. Overnight (6-7 August), the British craft managed to cut cables that had ensnared the mini-sub on 4 August.

Russia's Foreign Ministry has issued a statement expressing profound thanks to all countries that had quickly answered Russia's call for help.

Russian Rear Admiral Vladimir Pepelyaev announced the success of the rescue operation today from in front of the Russian Navy headquarters in Moscow:

"I want to confirm that at 7:15 in the morning Moscow time the mini-submarine surfaced near the rescue vessel 'Alagez.' The crew opened the upper hatch themselves. They left the submarine and boarded the motor-launch. The motor launch has just approached the 'Alagez.' The crew is being moved on board the rescue ship, where a medical crew will render necessary medical assistance. In general, according to a preliminary estimate, their condition is satisfactory. That is the information we obtained so far," Pepelyaev said.

Pepelyaev singled out the 29-man rescue team from Britain that had arrived from Scotland with the underwater rescue vehicle, the remote-controlled Scorpio 45.

"I can only thank our British colleagues for their assistance. Our joint work helped to successfully end the operation within the planned time frame -- the time frame which was planned according oxygen resources on the mini-submarine," Pepelyaev said.

Armed with an array of cameras and cutting equipment able to slice through thick, tangled cables, the Scorpio easily cut the fishnet and wires of a Russian coastal monitoring antennae that had snagged the mini-sub.

Once the last cable holding the mini-submarine was cut early today and the remnants of the fishing net were removed, the 55-ton submersible bobbed to the surface on its own. It reached the surface about 17 hours before the Russian Navy said its oxygen reserves would run out.

British Royal Navy Commander Jonty Powis described the mission as "fairly routine procedure" for the British rescue craft. But Powis admitted extra difficulties were caused by knowledge that the Russian crew was running out of oxygen and could not afford any delays.

The Scorpio is just 2.75 meters long and 1.8 meters tall. It weighs about 1.4 tons. It was dispatched from a base in Scotland where it is on constant standby, able to be deployed within 12 hours anywhere in the world.

It is specifically designed to be transported by plane. The 29-strong team accompanied it on 5 August on board an RAF C-17 plane from Prestwick in Scotland to Petropavlovsk, where it was transferred to a Russian vessel.

The robot rescue vehicle belongs to the U.K. Submarine Rescue Service on behalf of the British Defense Ministry and is managed by a specialist contractor.

U.S. and Japanese rescue teams and equipment also were dispatched. They arrived after the British craft had already begun its work.

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