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Russian Sailors Who Died In Submarine Fire To Receive State Awards


Russia Mourns Sub Losses Amid Many Questions
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WATCH: Russia Mourns Sub Losses Amid Many Questions

Commenting on investigations into a deadly fire involving a Russian deep-sea submarine, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has described the 14 sailors who died in the July 2 incident as "unique military specialists" who will all be nominated for state awards.

Speaking in Severomorsk, the base of Russia's Northern Fleet, Shoigu said on July 3 that some crew members and one civilian survived the accident in the Barents Sea involving what the Kremlin has described as a "research submersible."

Shoigu didn't specify how many people were rescued.

The Defense Ministry has not identified the type of vessel involved, but Russian media reported that it was an AS-12 nuclear-powered research submarine for sensitive missions at great depths, nicknamed Losharik, which was launched in the early 2000s.

The Losharik is named after a Soviet-era cartoon horse made up of small spheres -- a reference to the design of its interior hull, reportedly made of a chain of titanium spheres capable of withstanding huge pressure at great depths.

Few images and details have emerged about the Losharik, which took part in research intended to prove Russia's claim on the Arctic seabed in 2012, when it collected samples from a depth of 2,500 meters, according to official statements. Regular submarines reach depths of up to 600 meters.

Shoigu said that the deceased sailors were "top-notch professionals conducting important studies of the Earth's hydrosphere," according to Interfax.

Seven of the dead were captains of the first rank -- the fifth-highest rank in the Russian Navy -- while three were captains of second rank, the minister said. Two were Heroes of Russia.

The publication Baza identified the two Heroes of Russia as Denis Dolonsky and Nikolai Filin, both of whom were captains of the first rank.

President Vladimir Putin on July 2 ordered Shoigu to Severomorsk to oversee investigations and "identify the causes of this tragedy."

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on July 3 that some information related to the accident is classified and would not be disclosed.

It was one of the worst Russian naval incidents since 2000, when 118 seamen were killed when the Kursk submarine sank, and the deadliest since 2008.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Russian Service, AP, Interfax, and TASS