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Russia To Lease Nuclear Submarine To India

A Project 971 "Schuka-B" (Akula), nuclear submarine similar to the "Nerpa"
MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Russia will lease one of its newest nuclear-powered submarines to India in the second half of this year, Itar-Tass news agency has quoted a Russian Defense Ministry official as saying.

The submarine to be leased is the "Nerpa," which had accident in the Sea of Japan in November 2008 in which 20 people were killed. The Russian military had previously denied media reports that the submarine was to be leased to India.

"The lease of the 'Nerpa' nuclear submarine to India for 10 years...will take place this summer or autumn," the unidentified official told the agency.

The "Nerpa," armed with conventional weapons, was laid down in 1993 but was launched and started sea trials only in 2008 due to the piecemeal funding of its construction.

The submarine "successfully concluded sea trials last December", the Defense Ministry official told Itar-Tass.

Contacted by Reuters, a Defense Ministry official could not immediately confirm the report.

Citing its source, Itar-Tass said the submarine would be handed over to an Indian crew in the port of Vladivostok, Russia's military base and the main gateway to the Pacific.

Russia, India's close economic and political partner since Soviet days, is one of the world's major arms exporters. It has a fleet of nuclear-powered but conventionally armed submarines besides its strategic nuclear-armed vessels, which are not sold abroad.