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Trapped Russian sub rescued

Trapped Russian sub rescued

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On August 7, 2005, a Russian Priz AS-28 mini-submarine, with seven crew members on board, is rescued from deep in the Pacific Ocean. On August 4, the vessel had been taking part in training exercises in Beryozovaya Bay, off the coast of Russia’s far-eastern Kamchatka peninsula, when its propellers became entangled in cables that were part of Russia’s coastal monitoring system. Unable to surface, the sub’s crew was stranded in the dark, freezing submarine for more than three days.

At 1 p.m. on August 4, the Priz, trapped at 190 meters below the ocean surface, issued a mayday call. The Russian navy soon began to organize a rescue mission, asking for help from the United Kingdom, United States and Japan. In the ensuing days, while the three countries mobilized rescue crews for the trip to eastern Russia, the Russian navy attempted to first lift the sub from the water and later to drag it to shallower water where it could be reached by divers. Both approaches were complicated by the 60-ton anchor attached to the cables that had ensnared the sub. Finally, with fears mounting that the trapped crew’s oxygen supply would soon run out, the six-man crew of a British-owned-and-operated Scorpio-45 rescue sub arrived and was able to cut the sub loose. All seven on board, which included six Russian navy seamen and one representative of the company that made the sub, survived the ordeal.

The Priz incident occurred just five years after the Kursk, a Russian nuclear submarine, sank, killing all 118 people on board. In that disaster, the Russian government had delayed asking for outside help for some 30 hours and was widely blamed for the sailors deaths. As the disaster unfolded, Russian President Vladimir Putin stunned the public by failing to address the nation and even refused to cut short his vacation in light of the tragedy.

Although Russians everywhere were relieved and happy that the Priz was successfully rescued, others could not believe that the Russian navy had not acquired its own rescue equipment in the five years since the Kursk tragedy. For many, the Priz incident highlighted the effect of a decade of decay on the once-mighty Russian military.

Russia: U.S. Offers Help To Rescue Submarine

The United States had offered to help Russia in a rescue effort to save the lives of more than 100 crew members trapped in a crippled nuclear submarine. The sub plunged to the bottom of Barents Sea in a naval exercises during the weekend. RFE/RL's correspondent Frank T. Csongos reports from Washington.

Washington, 16 August 2000 (RFE/RL) -- The United States says it stands ready to provide help in the rescue of a crippled Russian nuclear submarine trapped on the bottom of the Barents Sea with more than 100 crew members on board.

But Defense Department spokesman Craig Quigley said Tuesday that even if the Russians accepted assistance, there were no guarantees for success because the American equipment may not be compatible with the Russian sub.

Quigley told reporters that Defense Secretary William Cohen made the offer to help in a message to Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev. Quigley said the U.S. had no response from Moscow as of mid-day Tuesday.

It was the second such U.S. offer in two days. White House national security adviser Sandy Berger brought up the matter of U.S. assistance in a telephone conversation Monday with his Russian counterpart.

Quigley said the Russian response was cordial and appreciative but that Berger was told there was no need for U.S. help at this time.

"They are fully aware of our willingness to provide help, but they feel that they got the assets on hand now that they need to do the job as they see it. And we stand ready to do what we can if that request comes."

U.S. experts said whatever sank the submarine Kursk, which was designed to withstand a torpedo attack with its double-layer hall, had to be massive.

John Pike of the Federation of American Scientists said the 13,900-ton submarine was designed to be hard to sink.

George Sviatov, a submarine architect with the Soviet Navy for 29 years and now a defense consultant based in Washington, agreed. He said the incident suggests "catastrophic damage and considerable casualties."

Russian officials initially suggested that the submarine was involved in a collision, perhaps with a foreign ship or submarine. Quigley said categorically there were no American vessels involved in the accident.

Quigley said the U.S. Navy was making preparations for a possible rescue mission in case the Russians changed their minds.

"The deep submergence rescue vehicle assets that the U.S. Navy has are located at North Island Naval Air Station in the San Diego (California) metro area. The folks there are very much aware of the accident with the Russian submarine, of course. They have taken prudent measures to make sure they can account for their folks, they're doing an inventory of equipment, they are making sure everything is as prepared as it can be."

Still, Quigley said it is unclear whether an American deep submergence recovery vehicle would fit the hatch of the Russian sub. He said some years ago there was a notice provided by the United States to various navies in the world, advising how they needed to construct escape hatches to make them compatible with U.S. rescue vehicle.

Quigley said it is not known to the U.S. if the Russians or other navies had taken the advice into consideration.

As to what caused the accident, Quigley said the Russians may not yet be in a position to know with certainty. In addition to a collision, reports ranged from a misfired torpedo inside the sub to hitting a World War II era sea mine.

Quigley also said that had this accident occurred during the Soviet era, the West would not have learned about it from Moscow. The Russians are much more forthcoming these days, he said, although a lot of the information remains contradictory.

Trapped Russian mini-sub rescued

PETROPAVLOVSK-KAMCHATSKY, Russia — Seven crew members aboard a Russian mini-submarine trapped for three days beneath the Pacific Ocean were pulled to safety today after a British remote-controlled vehicle cut away the undersea cables that had snarled it, Russian naval officials said.

Naval spokesman Capt. Igor Dygalo said the crew appeared to be in satisfactory condition and were being examined by ship medics.

The sub was raised after becoming stranded in more than 600 feet of water off the Pacific Coast on Thursday.

“The rescue operation has ended,” Rear Adm. Vladimir Pepelyayev, deputy head of the navy’s general staff, said in televised comments.

Capt. Dygalo told the Associated Press earlier that the Super Scorpio had freed the mini-sub from the military antenna that had tangled it some 625 feet below the surface.

With oxygen supplies dwindling after nearly three days underwater off the Kamchatka Peninsula, rescuers raced to bring the 44-foot-long AS-28 to the surface in Beryozovaya Bay, about 10 miles off Kamchatka’s east coast.

But a mechanical problem with the Super Scorpio forced workers to bring the rescue vehicle to the surface, delaying a process complicated by the discovery of a fishing net caught on the mini-sub, Interfax quoted another naval spokesman as saying.

“After the last cable holding down the mini-sub was cut off, rescuers found a piece of fishing net on the nose of the submersible,” Capt. Alexander Kosolapov was quoted as saying. “They were unable to take it off because the Scorpio had to be raised to the surface due to functioning problems.”

Russian ships had earlier managed to loop cables under the antenna that snared the ship on Thursday. It was not clear whether workers intended to raise the sub, or if the vessel would perform an emergency surfacing, rising rapidly to the surface.

Russian authorities have been hoping the British unmanned submersible could help free the sub and avoid losing a sub crew as they did with the Kursk nuclear submarine, which sank almost five years ago, killing all 118 aboard.

Russian estimates of how long the air would last ranged from the end of yesterday until tomorrow.

The Russian navy made contact with the crew late yesterday, and Pacific Fleet commander Adm. Viktor Fyodorov said earlier that their condition was “satisfactory” despite temperatures of 41 to 45 degrees.

In sharp contrast to the August 2000 Kursk disaster, when authorities held off asking for help until hope was nearly exhausted, Russian military officials quickly sought help from U.S. and British authorities.

Officials said the Russian submarine was participating in a combat-training exercise and got snarled on an underwater antenna assembly that is part of a coastal-monitoring system. The system is anchored with a weight of about 66 tons, according to news reports.

Russia’s cash-strapped navy apparently lacks rescue vehicles capable of operating at the depth where the sub is stranded, and officials say it is too deep for divers to reach or the crew to swim out on their own. An earlier attempt to drag the vessel to shallower waters failed when cables detached after pulling it some 65 yards.

President Vladimir Putin, who was criticized for his slow response to the Kursk crisis and reluctance to accept foreign assistance, was quick to seek help this time.

One Russian Submarine Is Leaking Radiation And Holds Two Lost Nuclear Weapons

At the time of the Komsomolets accident, she was in the Norwegian Sea, at a depth of approximately 1,250 feet, well within her maximum operating depth. Why did she sink?

Here's What You Need to Remember: In 1992, a team of scientists investigated the wreck, taking radiation measurements. Though the measurements were high, they determined the ocean would sufficiently dilute any leaked radiation, and that attempting to raise the sub would be riskier than leaving it where it lay.

The Komsomolets was floated in 1983, in Severodvinks. She was massive—400 feet long, 37 feed high, and 27 feet tall. The Komsomolets had one nuclear reactor. In addition to its nuclear propulsion, the Komsomolets had a titanium hull. Lighter and stronger than steel, the Komsomolets could dive deeper than any other manned submarine—below 3,000 feet.

Fire in the Deep

It was April 7th, 1989. At the time of the Komsomolets accident, she was in the Norwegian Sea, at a depth of approximately 1,250 feet, well within her maximum operating depth.

According to a fascinating CIA assessment, a high-pressure air line “connecting to main ballast tanks allowing the submarine to control its depth bursts its seal in the seventh compartment.” Although the events are somewhat confused, it is believed that “a spray of oil hits a hot surface there [in the seventh compartment], and a flash fire begins in the high pressure oxygen-rich air.”

The Komsomolets was equipped with a freon-based fire extinguishing system. Filling a burning compartment with the non-flammable gas would smother the fire. The Komsomolets Chief Engineer Valentin Babenko and Commanding Officer Captain First Rank Yevgeniy Vanin delay filling compartment seven with freon, as a sailor is trapped inside. Eventually they fill number seven, killing the sailor trapped inside.

The fire is not extinguished, but spreads to compartment six. The Komsomolets loses power and the propellers stop rotating. In order to prevent the nuclear reactors from melting down, the submarine’s power is turned off and controls are non-responsive. Almost miraculously, the sub is able to initiate an emergency blow, in which air is forced into ballast tanks to bring the submarine to the surface.

With a fire raging inside the submarine, Captain Vanin orders hands topside. The interior of the Komsomolets is so hot, the rubberized sonar-absorbent paneling on the outside of the hull is melting into the sea. At 11:41 Captain Vanin’s emergency signal is received but somehow the transmission is somewhat garbled. Soviet naval command knows that a Soviet submarine, somewhere, is in some degree of danger, but don’t know how much danger—or where.

At 12:19, Captain Vanin disregards Soviet encrypted broadcast procedures, broadcasting an SOS signal and calling for any available help.

Due to the Komsomolets location—nearly 1,000 kilometers from the Soviet Union’s border—Soviet Naval authorities are faced with a difficult choice. They can send slower rescue helicopters that can land on water, but don’t have enough fuel for a round-trip, or send a multi-engine plane that could drop rafts to the Komsomolets but wouldn’t be able to land.

A four-engine Il-38 is sent. It can’t land on water. Under ideal circumstances, preparing the plane for an emergency rescue would take nearly 90 minutes. Flight Capitan Petrogradsky takes off from his runway in just 49 minutes flat.

Seeing the Il-38, the crew do not don wetsuits, under the false assumption that their rescue is imminent. But the water is near-freezing, after 15 minutes in the sea, they would perish.

After some time the sea becomes choppy, and the fire inside the hull becomes harder to control. Captain Vanin transmits “I am preparing 69 people to evacuate.”

Although the Il-38 dropped rescue rafts, some founder in the sea, and there aren’t enough for the men, who rapidly lose feeling in their limbs and cannot hold onto the rafts. Some slip away unconscious.

Captain Vanin and six others are still inside the Komsomolets, trying to keep the submarine from sinking, though they are fighting a losing battle. As the Komsomolets sinks, Vanin and 5 other jump into the escape capsule, realizing too late that one of their number is still somewhere in the submarine. They also can’t release the escape pod.

After 1,300 feet an explosion tears through the submarine, releasing their escape pod. At the surface, the rough sea starts flooding the escape pod once the hatch is opened. It rapidly fills, and only one man escapes. Captain Vanin and four others join the Komsomolets at the bottom and forty-two total souls are lost.

Since the 1990s the Komsomolets has remained on the ocean floor. In addition to its nuclear reactor, it also had a pair of nuclear-tipped torpedoes.

In 1992, a team of scientists investigated the wreck, taking radiation measurements. Though the measurements were high, they determined the ocean would sufficiently dilute any leaked radiation, and that attempting to raise the sub would be riskier than leaving it where it lay. The Komsomolets it seems, will stay on the ocean floor for eternity.

'No longer a sanctuary'

The US Navy has repeatedly sounded the alarm over increased Russian Navy capabilities and activities.

Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, the commander of the 2nd Fleet, warned last year that "our ships can no longer expect to operate in a safe haven on the East Coast or merely cross the Atlantic unhindered."

Vice Adm. Daryl L. Caudle, commander of Naval Submarine Forces, echoed those concerns in September, saying that "it's pretty well known now that our homeland is no longer a sanctuary, so we have to be prepared here to conduct high-end combat operations in local waters."

Those concerns stem mostly from improvements in Russia's submarine fleet, especially the Severodvinsk and Kazan.

With Kazan completed and commissioned and the Yasen-M design finalized, it is believed that Kazan's sister-boats will take less time to construct.

The second Yasen-M, Novosibirsk, was launched in December 2019 and is expected to be delivered to the Navy by the end of this year. The third boat, Krasnoyarsk, will be launched in August and is expected to be commissioned in late 2022.

If Russia sticks to its timetable, five more Yasen-Ms will join the fleet by the end of the decade.

Severodvinsk and Kazan are part of Russia's Northern Fleet based in Severomorsk, while Novosibirsk and Krasnoyarsk will join the Pacific Fleet.

In all, four Yasen-Ms and the Severodvinsk will be in the Northern Fleet, with the other four in the Pacific Fleet. Russia does not deploy any of its nuclear submarines to the Baltic or Black Sea fleets because they do not have easy access to the open ocean.

With more Yasens in service, Russia's strategic deterrence capabilities are markedly enhanced.

"It's something that can bring the fight to the continental US," Edmonds told Insider. "There is a certain conventional non-nuclear deterrent aspect to the Severodvinsk, and I think that plays into the larger strategic framework that the Russians operate in."

USS Thresher, April 1963

Test dives were to be at the centre of yet another incident, and one which still retains the dubious distinction of being the single highest death toll in submarine history.

On the 10 th of April, the USS Thresher was engaged in a series of post-overhaul tests some 220 miles off the coast of Boston, Massachusetts, accompanied by the submarine rescue ship Skylark. As Thresher began to dive, travelling in circles beneath Skylark to maintain communications as the submarine moved towards her deep-diving test depth, the rescue vessel picked up garbled messages reporting “minor difficulties” and then heard no more.

An extensive underwater search later revealed the wreckage of the hull, broken into six sections and lying in 8,400 feet of water. The first nuclear submarine lost at sea, the sinking of the Thresher claimed the lives of all 129 aboard, but their deaths were to prove a defining moment for the US Navy that led to the new and rigorous submarine safety initiative, SUBSAFE.

Indonesian Navy Submarine Goes Missing With 53 People on Board

The last request made by the submarine was for permission to descend to a deeper part of the Bali Sea.

The last contact came at 3 a.m. on Wednesday. Then the Indonesian Navy submarine disappeared, somewhere deep in the dark waters off the island of Bali in the Pacific Ocean.

By evening, Indonesia’s Ministry of Defense had tracked down only one possible sign of the missing vessel, which carried 53 people on board: a broad oil slick found in the area where the submarine began its dive north of Bali.

The oil slick could be evidence of the submarine’s distress from a crack in the hull, said First Adm. Julius Widjojono, a spokesman for the Indonesian Navy. Such cracking is highly unusual but can occur with a sudden change of pressure, naval experts said.

The last request made by the submarine, known as the KRI Nanggala-402, was for permission to descend to a deeper part of the Bali Sea in order to fire torpedoes for naval drills, First Admiral Widjojono said. The area includes valleys that are at least 1,900 to 2,300 feet deep (or roughly 600 to 700 meters).

The request was granted, but contact with the submarine was lost after that.

Built in 1977 in Germany and refitted in 2012, the Nanggala was last “fully maintained” in May 2018, according to a defense expert, who did not want to be identified speaking about internal naval information.

The submarine, about 196 feet long and more than 19 feet wide, was built to hold 34 crew members, according to specifications cited by the navy during a previous training session. It is not clear why the vessel had more people on board during this torpedo drill.

“The quality of the navy crew is not in doubt, but the treatment of this submarine may need to be rechecked,” said Connie Rahakundini Bakrie, a military analyst at the University of Indonesia. “I am afraid there is a lack of standard operating procedure maintenance.”

Two Indonesian Navy ships are using sonar to search for the missing vessel, First Admiral Widjojono said. One of the ships was deployed earlier this year to search for the flight recorders of an Indonesian jet that crashed in January.

Navies from neighboring nations, like Australia and Singapore, have been alerted and will join the search in the coming days, Indonesia’s Ministry of Defense said.

A country of thousands of inhabited islands, Indonesia is the world’s largest archipelagic nation. Its navy is poorly funded, even as the country has to contend with regular incursions by foreign fishing fleets and coast guards.

Submarine accidents are rare. In 2000, a Russian Navy submarine sank to the seabed after an explosion on board. All 118 people died after rescue teams took days to gain access to the submarine, and oxygen ran out for the 23 sailors who had survived the blast.

In 2017, an Argentine Navy submarine went missing with 44 people on board, after what was thought to be an electrical malfunction. Its wreckage was found a year later.

But miraculous rescues have occurred. In 2005, seven sailors on board a small Russian Navy submarine that was trapped in a fishing net were freed just a few hours before their oxygen would have run out.

“Crossing my fingers that help from Australia and other countries will come,” said Ms. Bakrie, the Indonesian military analyst, referring to the search for the missing Indonesian submarine. “Crossing my fingers that the crew will all survive.”

The Hunt For A Soviet Submarine Desperately Trying To Sneak Through The Strait Of Gibraltar

USN, TheDastanMR/wikicommons

In the North Atlantic on the evening of January 20, 1967, four U.S. Navy destroyers steamed east in a line abreast at 20 knots, heading for the Strait of Gibraltar. It was a Friday and we had departed the big naval base in Norfolk, Virginia nearly two weeks earlier to participate in a large naval exercise. We were now headed off on a multi-month Mediterranean cruise. It was the height of the Cold War and tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States were extremely high. We were not going there to sightsee.

My ship, the USS Steinaker (DD-863) was a Gearing class destroyer, and like the others, it had been built during the closing months of World War II. It was 390 feet long and was powered by two steam turbines producing 60,000 shaft horsepower and driving two 14-foot propellers. Our main purpose was anti-submarine warfare, or ASW. Our top speed was 36.8 knots—destroyers are known as “Greyhounds” for a reason.

A few years prior to my arrival aboard Steinaker, the decades-old ship had undergone a major fleet rehabilitation and modernization program, or FRAM, where new weapon systems and a new AN/SQS-23 sonar system had been installed.

Russian Nuclear Sub Trapped on Sea Floor

One of Russia’s newest nuclear submarines, with more than 100 crew members aboard, lay crippled Monday on the seabed above the Arctic Circle after a collision or explosion, and Russia’s top naval official grimly acknowledged that a rescue would be difficult.

Equipment was lowered hundreds of feet into the icy Barents Sea to supply the stricken sub with oxygen and power, and after hours in which the trapped crew communicated by pounding out messages on the vessel’s hull, radio communication reportedly was reestablished. Deep-water equipment was used to inspect the hull.

But Russian officials also went into a reflexive, Soviet-style clampdown on information. There were no details on casualties, the extent of damage, the submarine’s exact location, or a timetable for a rescue operation.

The torpedo section reportedly filled with water after the accident Sunday, and Russian media reports quoted naval sources as saying that some crew members may have perished.

The commander of the Russian navy, Adm. Vladimir Kuroyedov, told the Itar-Tass news agency that there were signs of a collision involving the 13,900-ton, 500-foot Kursk, one of a class of Russian submarines that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has dubbed Oscar II.

The Kursk was built in 1994 and commissioned in 1995. A Russian navy spokesman said that the submarine, which is capable of carrying 24 nuclear or conventional missiles, had no nuclear weapons on board and that the two reactors had been switched off.

Kuroyedov said all available rescue services rushed to the scene, but “the situation is bad. Despite all the efforts being taken, the probability of a successful outcome with the Kursk is not very high.” It was not clear whether he was referring to the prospect of rescuing the crew or saving the submarine.

Sergei Sokut, a naval expert at the Independent Military Agency, a news agency, said it would be difficult to raise the submarine. However, he said he believed that the crew could survive for several weeks since power and oxygen have been restored.

Late Monday, naval officials told Russian news agencies that the most likely cause of the accident was a collision with a foreign submarine. But early today, Itar-Tass quoted a source in a defense firm that is part of the rescue team as saying the preliminary inspection of the hull showed that the crisis most likely occurred because of a blast and not a collision.

The Russian--and before, Soviet--submarine fleet has been plagued by tragedies, and this latest accident raised doubts about standards and procedures in the decaying and cash-starved navy.

The Russian navy spokesman said there were no radiation leaks. Norwegian authorities monitoring the situation confirmed that there were no signs of radiation leakage.

The submarine plunged to the floor of the Barents Sea on Sunday during naval exercises, which were being observed discreetly by NATO vessels. Two hours after the Kursk failed to make a scheduled radio communication, other Russian vessels in the area became aware that the crew of the Kursk was communicating by tapping on the hull.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, in a meeting with reporters and editors at The Los Angeles Times, would not comment on the possibility of American involvement.

“We are talking with the Russians,” she said. “We’re obviously very concerned about their people who are in the submarine, and we’re trying to figure out a way to be helpful.”

At the Pentagon, U.S. Navy officials denied that any American surface ship or submarine was involved. An electronic surveillance ship, the Loyal, was operating in the area, presumably monitoring one of the Russian navy’s largest regular naval exercises. But Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. Craig Quigley said the Loyal was “a long way away” from the Kursk.

But officials refused to discuss the whereabouts of American subs at the time the Kursk went down. U.S. nuclear submarines, which sit silently offshore and eavesdrop on communications, often operate near military exercises. Often, the U.S. vessels shadow Russian subs during exercises to hone their tracking skills.

The Barents Sea, which is home to most of the Russian submarine fleet, is a common bumping ground. In 1993, a U.S. nuclear submarine, the Grayling, collided with a Russian ballistic missile submarine, causing slight damage to both vessels. A year earlier, also in the Barents Sea, the Baton Rouge nuclear submarine hit a Russian sub, also causing minimal damage.

Quigley said Monday that the U.S. military had not been asked to assist in a potential rescue of the Russian crew. One reliable U.S. source said that the United States had offered its help but that the Russians had declined.

The U.S. Navy has four rescue vessels designed to be flown anywhere in the world from North Island Naval Air Station in Coronado to save the lives of submariners trapped in a crippled boat at the bottom of the sea.

Most U.S. allies, including Britain, Turkey, France, Italy and Japan, have retrofitted their submarines with compatible escape hatches and “skirts” capable of keeping one of the so-called Deep Submerged Rescue Vessel in position during a rescue.

A retired U.S. admiral involved in past submarine rescues said the Russians apparently have a rescue device that attaches near the hatch of a stricken sub and works like a cable-guided elevator.

News of the accident did not emerge in Russia until Monday morning, when a minor malfunction aboard a Russian nuclear submarine was reported.

Naval sources later told Russian news agencies that a foreign submarine may have collided with the Kursk and could be lying nearby, damaged. But the U.S., Britain and Norway all denied that their vessels in the area were involved in any collision.

Paul Beaver, a naval expert with Jane’s Information Group, said that it was unlikely that the submarine collided with a NATO vessel, but that it might have hit a Russian craft.

Beaver said the Russian and Soviet submarines had a poor accident record because the fleet was large and technical standards were lower than in the West.

“You have to look at this and say to yourself, ‘How did they get into this position? Were they just unlucky?’ Giving the Russians the benefit of the doubt, you can say they had an accident. But now they’ve got to get those people out. That will be the true test of their professionalism,” he said.

Nine Russian navy war and rescue ships steamed to the area, north of the Northern Fleet base of Severomorsk, near Murmansk, and several others were expected to join them.

There have been varying reports of the submarine’s location and depth under water. The AVN military agency reported that the stricken vessel was 85 miles north of Severomorsk. ORT television said it was 60 miles north of Severomorsk. Russian media reports said the submarine was marooned at a depth of 350 feet, while Norwegian authorities, which had a vessel in the area, put the depth at 450 feet.

There also were conflicting reports on whether the sub was lying level on the seabed or listing at an angle.

Beaver said he believed that there was a good chance of rescuing the crew, provided that the Russians asked for Western help if they needed it.

“I’m not sure the Russians have got the technical expertise to do it,” he said.

One option would be to evacuate the crew using rescue submarines. A second option would be a “free ascent,” in which the crew would swim out.

Ivan Safranchuk, an analyst from the Center for Policy Studies, a Moscow think tank, said that if Russians continued to cast blame on a foreign vessel despite denials from Western powers, it could further complicate its troubled relationship with NATO.

“The worst possible consequence would be that we never admit that we were at fault in this accident. It seems obvious a number of people died, but the main reason is still being given as an accident due to a collision with a foreign submarine.

“That could cause serious tension in Russian-U.S. relations--after all those exchanges, meeting and summits,” he warned.

There have been many major accidents involving Soviet nuclear submarines from 1960 to 1989. The most recent was the Komsomolets in 1989, which went down in the Norwegian Sea after a fire. Forty-two crew members, including the captain, perished.

Other incidents included a near-meltdown in a Soviet nuclear submarine in October 1960 a similar crisis in 1961 power failures and radiation leaks in a submarine in 1963 a fire on a submarine in 1970 that caused the vessel to sink off the Spanish coast, killing 52 and a 1986 explosion in a nuclear submarine missile tube that caused the vessel to sink near Bermuda, killing four crew members.

According to the CIA, a Soviet submarine sank off the Kola Peninsula in 1968. That same year, another sank about 750 miles northwest of Hawaii, coming to rest on the ocean floor nearly 17,000 feet down. In 1973, the CIA commissioned the construction of a special vessel, the Hughes Glomar Explorer, to raise the sunken boat. Built at a cost of more than $200 million, by some estimates, and with a cover story that its purpose was to seek undersea mineral deposits, the Glomar Explorer found its quarry. But an accident during the lifting operation in 1975 caused the hulk to break apart, resulting in the loss of a critical portion of the submarine, its nuclear missiles and codes.

In 1983, a Soviet submarine sank in the northern Pacific, according to U.S. intelligence.

Times staff writers Melissa Healy in Washington, Carla Hall in Los Angeles and Tony Perry in San Diego contributed to this report.

Russian sub's crew alive after robotic rescue

PETROPAVLOVSK-KAMCHATSKY, Russia - Seven people on a Russian mini-submarine trapped for nearly three days on the Pacific floor were rescued today when a British remote-controlled vehicle cut away undersea cables that snarled their vessel, allowing it to surface.

The seven, whose oxygen supply had been dwindling, appeared to be in satisfactory condition when they emerged, navy spokesman Capt. Igor Dygalo said. They were examined in the clinic of a naval ship, then transferred to a larger vessel to return to the mainland.

About five hours after their rescue, six sailors were brought to a hospital on the mainland for examination, waving to relatives as they went in. The seventh was kept aboard a hospital ship for unspecified reasons.

At the edge of the gangplank leading to shore, the mini-sub's commander, Lt. Vyacheslav Milashevsky, held a long and solemn salute, then a slight smile crossed his face. Pale, but walking confidently, he told journalists he was "fine" before climbing into a van for the drive to the hospital.

His wife, Yelena, said earlier that she was overjoyed when she learned the crew had been rescued.

"My feelings danced. I was happy, I cried," she told Channel One television.

Another crewman in the van swiveled his head back and forth, gazing at the green trees and gray skies.

The red-and-white mini-sub, the AS-28, surfaced at 4:26 p.m. local time today, some three days after becoming entangled in 600 feet of water Thursday. It was carrying six sailors and a representative of the company that manufactured it.

"The crew opened the hatch themselves, exited the vessel and climbed aboard a speedboat," said Rear Adm. Vladimir Pepelyayev, deputy head of the naval general staff.

"I can only thank our English colleagues for their joint work and the help they gave in order to complete this operation within the time we had available -- that is, before the oxygen reserves ran out."

The United States also sent three remote-controlled underwater vehicles for the rescue, but they arrived several hours after the British vehicle and were not used.

Both countries sent rescue teams after the Russian navy made an urgent appeal for international help _ unlike during the August 2000 sinking of the nuclear submarine Kursk, when authorities held off asking for outside assistance for days. All 118 aboard the Kursk died.

Russian ships tried to tow the mini-sub and its entanglements to shallower water where divers could reach it but could only move it less than 100 yards in Beryozovaya Bay, about 10 miles off the Kamchatka coast.

Then, a British remote-controlled Super Scorpio cut away the cables snarling the 44-foot-long mini-sub. Once the obstructions were removed, there was a last spasm of anxiety as the submarine stayed still.

"Then after two or three minutes, it broke free and within three minutes it surfaced," Ivanov said.

The men aboard the mini-sub had waited out tense hours of uncertainty as rescuers raced to free them before their air supply ran out. They put on thermal suits to insulate them against temperatures of about 40 degrees inside the sub and were told to lie flat and breathe as lightly as possible to conserve oxygen.

To save electricity, they turned off the submarine's lights and used communications equipment only sporadically to contact the surface.

"The crew were steadfast, very professional," Pepelyayev said on Channel One television. "Their self-possession allowed them to conserve the air and wait for the rescue operation."

In an echo of the Kursk sinking, President Vladimir Putin had made no public comment by today on the mini-sub drama. Putin remained on vacation as the Kursk disaster unfolded, raising criticism that he appeared either callous or ineffectual.

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, who went to Kamchatka to supervise the operation, praised the help provided by Britain and the United States.

"We have seen in deeds, not in words, what the brotherhood of the sea means," he said.

Officials said the Russian submarine was participating in a combat training exercise and got snarled on an underwater antenna assembly that is part of a coastal monitoring system. The system is anchored with a weight of about 66 tons, according to news reports.

The sub's propeller initially became ensnared in a fishing net, they said.

The events and an array of confusing and contradictory statements _ with wildly varying estimates of how much air the crew had left _ darkly echoed the sinking of the Kursk.

Russia's cash-strapped navy apparently lacks rescue vehicles capable of operating at the depth where the sub was stranded, and officials say it was too deep for divers to reach or the crew to swim out on their own.

The submarine's problems indicated that promises by Putin to improve the navy's equipment apparently have had little effect. He was criticized for his slow response to the Kursk crisis and reluctance to accept foreign assistance.

The new crisis has been highly embarrassing for Russia, which will hold an unprecedented joint military exercise with China later this month, including the use of submarines to settle an imaginary conflict in a foreign land. In the exercise, Russia is to field a naval squadron and 17 long-haul aircraft.

New criticism arose within hours of the mini-sub's crew being rescued. Dmitry Rogozin, head of the nationalist Rodina party in the lower house of parliament, said he would demand an assessment from the Military Prosecutor's Office of the navy's performance in the incident, the Interfax news agency reported.

Rogozin said he wanted to know why Russia has not acquired underwater vehicles similar to the ones provided by Britain and the United States and "why fishing nets and cables litter the area of naval maneuvers."

"It appears the naval command is not in control of the area of naval exercises," he said, according to Interfax.

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