A fire broke out in a Russian mini-submarine near the Barents Sea killing 14 sailors on July 1, according to a statement from the Ministry of Defense in Moscow.
Reuters quoted Per Strand, a director at the Norwegian Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority as saying that his agency "made checks" and was "not monitoring too high radiation levels in the area" where the accident took place, suggesting that the vessel is nuclear-powered.
"He said Russian officials had told his agency that a gas explosion took place on board the submarine," Reuters added. However the Russian MoD said in a statement on Tuesday it had not notified the Norwegian authorities about a ‘gas explosion’ on board a Russian Navy research submersible.
“On July 1, 14 sailors died in Russian territorial waters as a result of inhaling combustion products aboard a research submersible vehicle designated for studying the seafloor and the bottom of the World Ocean in the interests of the Russian Navy after a fire broke out during bathymetric measurements,” state-controlled TASS news service said quoting an MoD statement.
The fire was extinguished “thanks to the self-sacrificing actions of the team,” the ministry said. The incident is believed to have occurred off Russia’s northern shore in the Barents Sea on Monday.
The submarine was towed to the Russian North Fleet headquarters in Severomork and an investigation is underway, according to the news agency.
The submersible was identified by Russian-language news service RBC as Losharik (AS-12), a nuclear-powered mini-submarine that is deployed by the Russian Main Directorate of Deep-Sea Research, also known as GUGI. The Losharik is believed to be nuclear powered but its specifications and functions remain a secret. It is estimated to carry a crew of 25 and is able to dive deep and stay submerged for weeks, according to information posted on Russian navy writers’ blogs.