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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Stricken Russian Sub Returns to Port

By Emma Stickgold
09 November 2008

The Russian navy says the nuclear-powered Russian submarine, involved in a deadly accident, has pulled into port at Bolshoi Kamen, a military shipyard not far from the eastern city of Vladivostok. Russian Navy officials say at least 20 shipbuilders and servicemen were killed Saturday when the fire-extinguishing system aboard the vessel was activated in error. The officials say the submarine was in the waters of the Sea of Japan conducting sea trials when the accident occurred. Emma Stickgold reports from Moscow for VOA that the accident occurred amid Russia's attempt to show the world its military prowess, as its relations with the West have soured.

In addition to the dead, more than 20 were injured in the Saturday accident, which was the worst incident involving a Russian submarine since 118 were killed in the 2000 Kursk fiasco, after an explosion sank the vessel.

Russian naval spokesman Captain Igor Dyagalo said the nuclear powered submarine was able to return to its base, on Russia's Pacific coast, using its own power.

The nuclear reactor that powers the submarine appears to have been unscathed in the accident, and Dyagalo described radiation levels in the area as "normal," in the hours after the incident.

Technicians and specialists comprised the majority of the 208 people aboard the vessel.

The injured suffered from varying degrees of poisoning, with local news agencies reporting that the fire-extinguishing systems aboard many submarines use chemicals and foam.

The submarine reached the Bolshoi Kamen shores Sunday, with a rescue vessel joining it for the journey back.

Dyagalo did not say what led to the inadvertent activation of the fire-extinguishing system, but local news agencies were reporting that human error was likely to be the cause.

Russia's navy has recently taken to showing its might, with a naval squadron set to take part in joint exercises not far from U.S. shores in Venezuela.

Navy officials said that President Dmitry Medvedev was briefed on the accident, and called for a "full and meticulous" investigation, as well as aid to the families of the victims.

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