A high-ranking Russian military official says that 14 sailors who died in a recent fire aboard a nuclear submarine averted a "planetary catastrophe" before they perished.
While speaking at a funeral for the fallen servicemen, the official did not elaborate on what they did to avert said catastrophe, as the entire incident remains shrouded in mystery, according to Russian news outlet Open Media.
"Today we are escorting the crew of a research deep-water apparatus, who died while performing a combat mission in the cold waters of the Barents Sea. 14 dead, 14 lives. At the cost of their lives, they saved the lives of their comrades, saved the ship, did not allow a planetary catastrophe," he said.
The Russian government has faced accusations of a cover up following the fatal accident - refusing to reveal the submarine's name and mission under the guise of state secrets, while delaying other information such as the date of the accident itself, and the fact that the vessel was nuclear powered.
According to The Independent, "Several sources have identified the vessel as the A-31, or the Losharik submersible; a nuclear-powered unarmed vessel capable of deep sea missions. Its exact design is shrouded in secrecy, but it is believed to be an experimental 70m-long craft operating in conjunction with a larger mothership submarine. Developed over 15 years beginning in 1988, it is described as the Russian military’s most advanced deep water vessel."
Local news agency Severpost reported that the smaller submarine was likely tethered to the larger Podmoskovye atomic submarine when it emerged from the Barents Sea at the mouth of the Kola Bay.
Citing an unnamed fisherman, the publication claimed the submarine was travelling quickly back towards base, but without obvious signs of distress. -The Independent
Contradictory reports as to what type of Russian sub had accident; some say AS-12 "Losharik" (in red box), others its BS-64 carrier submarine, both depicted in this photo published by @novaya_gazeta: pic.twitter.com/kIkGX9s4Qh— Lucian Kim (@Lucian_Kim) July 2, 2019
Russia's defense ministry has labeled the 14 dead servicemen "Heroes of Russia." They were buried in the Serafimov cemetery in St. Petersburg near a monument to the 118 Russians killed in the Kursk nuclear submarine disaster in 2000.