Russia nuclear sub fire could have caused catastrophe: report cites navy official

A mourner touches a photograph at the grave of Captain third rank Vladimir Sukhinichev during the funeral of Russian sailors, who were recently killed in a fire on a secret nuclear research submarine in the area of the Barents Sea, at Serafimovskoye cemetery in Saint Petersburg, Russia July 6, 2019. REUTERS/Anton Vaganov

MOSCOW (Reuters) – A fire aboard a top-secret Russian nuclear submarine could have led to a “catastrophe of global proportions” if not for the selfless actions of the crew, a senior navy official was cited by a Russian media outlet as saying.

Fourteen submariners were killed on July 1 during a fire in a deep-water research submersible that was surveying the sea floor near the Arctic, according to Russia’s Defence Ministry.

Russian officials have faced accusations of trying to cover up the full details of the incident on the top secret vessel. President Vladimir Putin only acknowledged publicly there had been a nuclear reactor on board three days after it happened.

The sailors were buried on Saturday in St Petersburg at a funeral ceremony that was closed to the public.

“They all shared one and the same fate – to save the lives of their comrades, to save their vessel and to prevent a catastrophe of global proportions at the cost of their own lives,” Sergei Pavlov, an aide to the Russian navy’s commander, was quoted as saying at the funeral by St Petersburg media outlet Fontanka on Saturday.

In the comments from Pavlov quoted in Russian media, there was no explanation of how the fire could have resulted in a global catastrophe. Russian officials have said the crew contained the fire and isolated the submarine’s nuclear reaction.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, told reporters on a conference call he was unaware of the comments made by officials at the funeral and was therefore unable to comment.

Putin last week bestowed Russia’s highest state award – the title of Hero of Russia – on four of the men and granted another top state award — the Order of Courage — to the 10 others.

Putin has said that the submarine was manned by an elite and senior crew, two of whom already held the Hero of Russia title before their final mission.

(Reporting by Tom Balmforth and Andrew Osborn; Writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Alison Williams)

Russian ‘fake news’ machine going mad, says French envoy to U.S.

FILE PHOTO: French Ambassador to the U.N. Gerard Araud addresses the Security Council during a meeting about the situation in the Middle East, including Palestine, at United Nations headquarters in New York, July 22, 2014. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

PARIS (Reuters) – France’s envoy to the United States on Tuesday accused Moscow of spreading fake news after Russia’s Defence Ministry said a French frigate in the Mediterranean had launched missiles on Syria.

The ministry initially said a Russian military plane had been shot down by Israeli warplanes and that Russian air control radar systems had detected rocket launches from the French frigate Auvergne.

The ministry later said the aircraft had been shot down by Syrian anti-aircraft systems in what President Vladimir Putin said was the result of tragic and chance circumstances.

“Russian fake news machine getting mad: accusing the French to have shot down a Russian plane (in fact victim of a Syrian « friend(ly) » fire),” France’s ambassador to Washington, Gerard Araud tweeted, in English.

French army spokesman Patrik Steiger denied that France had been involved in the incident or fired any missiles but several hours later Russian media continued to ask the question.

Quoting a military expert, Tass news agency said Paris was partly at fault after launching cruise missiles from the Auvergne.

France’s presidency, Foreign Ministry and Defence Ministry had yet to respond officially to the Russian assertions.

(Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Leigh Thomas)