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Russian Spy Ship Sinks After Collision In Black Sea; Crews Safe

  • RFE/RL

The Russian Navy reconnaissance ship Liman reportedly hit a cargo ship near the Bosphorous Strait. (file photo)

A Russian naval intelligence ship has sunk after a collision with a freighter tore a hole in its hull in the Black Sea off Istanbul, Turkish and Russian authorities say.

All 78 sailors aboard the spy ship Liman were safe following the April 27 collision, which occurred about 40 kilometers northwest of the Bosphorus Strait, the Turkish coastal-safety authority said. The crew of the cargo ship was also safe.

The coastal authority said 15 Russian sailors had been rescued from the sea after the collision, and the others evacuated from the ship.

The Russian Defense Ministry confirmed that no crew members were killed.

The collision, which occurred in a fog that caused low visibility, punched a hole in the Russian vessel, the ministry said.

The Togo-flagged freighter Youzarsif H., which was carrying livestock, "sustained almost no substantial damage and continued sailing along its route," the Turkish coastal authority said.

Turkish media reports said the freighter was carrying some 8,000 sheep from Romania to Jordan.

State-run Turkish news agency Anadolu reported that Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim's aides contacted Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev's office to convey his "sadness" over the collision.

The Liman belonged to the Russian Black Sea Fleet, whose warships must cross through the Bosphorus for operations anywhere outside the Black Sea.

Among other things, Black Sea Fleet warships conduct missions to the eastern Mediterranean off Syria, where the Russian military is backing President Bashar al-Assad's forces in a six-year-old war against rebels -- some of them supported by Turkey.

Backing opposite sides in the war in Syria has led to tensions between Turkey and Russia, which spiked when Turkish jets shot down a Russian warplane that Ankara said entered Turkey's airspace in November 2015.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan moved to mend fences last year, and Moscow and Ankara are now co-sponsoring intermittent peace talks held in Kazakhstan.

According to state-backed Russian media outlet RT, the 1,560-ton vessel was commissioned in 1970 and is "mostly unarmed" but is equipped with a radar system, sonar, and other equipment designed to track ships and submarines.

With reporting by Reuters, TASS, AP, Interfax, dpa, and RT
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