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14 killed in fire on Russian navy submersible

Aerial starboard bow view of a Russian Navy Northern Fleet Delta II class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine underway on the surface. (U.S. Navy)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Russia’s Defense Ministry says a fire on one of its deep-sea research submersibles has killed 14 crew members.

The ministry said on July 2 that the tragedy took place the previous day as the vessel was carrying out a survey in Russian territorial waters.

Russia’s RBC news outlet quoted a military source as identifying the vessel as the Losharik AS-12 nuclear-powered submarine, although the Defense Ministry has not identified the type of vessel involved.

When the Losharik was launched in the early 2000s, details of the vessel were considered highly secretive. One report said it was able to dive 2,500 meters under the sea.

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The RBC report said the incident occurred in the evening hours of July 1.

A Defense Ministry statement said that the sailors died as a result of inhaling combustible fumes aboard the research vessel, which was conducting biometric measurements on the floor of the ocean.

The submersible is now at a navy base in the northwestern city of Severomorsk near Murmansk on the Barents Sea, officials said.

An investigation has been launched.

In 2000, all 118 crew members aboard the Kursk, a Russian nuclear-powered submarine, were killed when the vessel sank to the floor of the Barents Sea following two explosions in a tragedy that gripped the nation at the time.