Kremlin Releases New Details on Russian Submarine Fire, Identifies Sailors Killed

July 3, 2019 4:03 PM
Vladimir Putin and Sergey Shoigu at Navy Parade. Saint-Petersburg in 2017. Kremlin Photo

The head of the Russian military released a handful of additional details about the fire aboard a specialized submarine that killed 14 submariners in the Barents Sea on Monday.

Defense minister Sergei Shoigu confirmed that there were survivors from the fire aboard the submarine, which USNI News understands to be Losharik (A-12).

“The submariners acted heroically in the critical situation,” he said on Wednesday from the Russian North Fleet base in Severomorsk.
“They evacuated a civilian expert from the compartment that was engulfed by fire and shut the door to prevent the fire from spreading further and fought for the ship’s survival until the end.”

On Wednesday, the Russian Ministry of Defense released the names of the submariners killed:

Captain 1st Rank

  • Konstantin Ivanov
  • Andrey Voskresenskiy
  • Konstantin Somov
  • Denis Oparin
  • Vladimir Abankin
  • Denis Dolonskiy
  • Nikolay Filin

Captain 2nd Rank

  • Alexander Avdonin
  • Dmitriy Solovyev
  • Sergey Danilchenko

Captain 3rd Rank

  • Viktor Kuzmin
  • Vladimir Sukhinichev

Other Crew

  • Lieutenant Captain Mikhail Dubkov
  • Lieutenant Colonel of Medical Service Alexandr Vasilyev

Local press in St. Petersburg tied the crew to a military unit that reported directly to the Russian Main Directorate of Deep-Sea Research, also known as GUGI. News site RBC has collected details on the crew.

A rendering of Losharik (AS-12) submersible used with permission. H I Sutton Image

The dead included seven Captains 1st Rank, or the equivalent of U.S. Navy Captain; and three Captains 2nd Rank, or the equivalent of a U.S. Commander. Shoigu addressed the high ranks of the sailors who died aboard the submarine.

“The submariners on board were unique military specialists — highly skilled professionals who conducted important research on the Earth’s hydrosphere,” Shoigu said.

He did not address the type of submarine that suffered the fire, saying only that it was highly classified.

Losharik is among the most classified of the specialized GUGI boats operating from the remote Arctic Olenya Guba base on the Kola Peninsula near the borders of Finland and Norway.

On Wednesday, Norwegian officials said they had been notified that the Russian submarine had suffered a gas explosion.

“There has been a gas explosion, confirmed by the Russian authorities,” Per Strand, director of the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority (NRPA), told AFP.
“We are waiting for information from the Russian side about whether there was a reactor onboard the submarine.”

A cutaway rendering of the Losharik (AS-12) submersible used with permission. H I Sutton Image

However, the Russians denied they had notified the Norwegian authorities.

“There were no notifications sent to the Norwegian side regarding the Russian science research deep water apparatus.”

A Pentagon spokesperson told USNI News on Wednesday the U.S. was monitoring the situation but had not been asked to render assistance. The spokesperson also told USNI News that the U.S. did not have assets operations in the region at the time of the fire.

USNI News understands that the accident aboard the Russian submarine occurred during the normal seasonal workups for GUGI summer operations.

The incident aboard the submarine is the worst Russian submarine accident since the 2008 death of 20 Russian sailors aboard the nuclear powered Nerpa. In 2000, the Russian Navy lost 118 sailors due to an accident on the nuclear-powered cruise-missile boat Kursk.

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services since 2009 and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.
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