Fire-hit Russian submarine was nuclear-powered, Vladimir Putin confirms

4 July 2019, 13:46 | Updated: 4 July 2019, 15:47

Vladimir Putin has confirmed that his navy's deep-sea submersible vessel that caught fire on Monday was nuclear-powered.

Previously Russian officials had refused to release any details about the incident, which saw 14 people killed, because they said the vessel was on a secret mission.

The Russian president met defence minister Sergei Shoigu, who had returned from the navy's Arctic base of Severomorsk, and asked him about the submersible's nuclear reactor.

Mr Shoigu said the reactor is "completely isolated now" and it is "in full working order".

The blaze broke out in the battery compartment of the vessel and spread, Mr Shoigu said.

Earlier, the defence ministry said 14 people had been killed and that there was an undisclosed number of survivors.

Few details about the fire and the ship have been given apart from that it was on a mission to measure sea depths in Russia's territorial waters in the Barents Sea where it caught fire.

The vessel has not been named by the ministry but Russian media reported it was the country's most secret submersible, a nuclear-powered research submarine called the Losharik intended for sensitive missions at great depths.

Submersibles are usually smaller than submarines - which unlike submersibles can operate over long distances, are autonomous and do not need surface support.

On Thursday, hundreds of sailors gathered at Russia's main naval cathedral on an island in the Gulf of Finland just off St Petersburg to mourn the deaths of the sailors.

Candles were lit by seamen and the priests who formerly served in the navy at the Kronshtadt Navy Cathedral.

Monday's fire marks the deadliest Russian naval incident since 2008, when 20 died when a firefighting system was accidentally initiated while the Nerpa nuclear-powered submarine of Russia's Pacific Fleet was undergoing trials.

In the deadliest naval incident in post-Soviet Russia, the Kursk nuclear submarine exploded and sank on 12 August 2000 during naval manoeuvres in the Barents Sea, killing all 118 crew members.