August 12, 2005

Russian admiral criticizes bungling in sub rescue

By Guy Faulconbridge

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Russian navy bungled the rescue of
seven submariners stranded in the Pacific, the country's second
most senior admiral said on Friday in a rare admission of

The British navy helped rescue the sailors on Sunday after
three days trapped in a AS-28 mini-submarine that had become
entangled in fishing nets and an antenna 600 feet underwater
off the Kamchatka peninsula on the Pacific Coast.

"We have all the latest equipment which was bought after
the Kursk but it was not used in Kamchatka due to bungling,"
Navy chief of staff Admiral Vladimir Masorin was quoted by the
Interfax news agency as saying.

Masorin was speaking on the fifth anniversary of the
sinking of the Kursk nuclear submarine when all 118 sailors
died on board, provoking a storm of criticism against the navy.

He said there was "deception," which prevented the Navy
command from assessing the real situation, though he didn't
clarify what he meant.

The comments marked rare public criticism from Russia's top
brass who preside over an armed forces that President Vladimir
Putin has promised to reform but which still relies heavily on
outdated equipment and poorly trained troops.

A special Russian-run rescue vessel was in place, Masorin
said, but had been damaged by improper use. The operators for
the vessel were on holiday at the time, he said.

Masorin, heading an investigation into the incident which
ended on Sunday, has been widely tipped by local media to
become the head of the Russian navy if, as expected, the
current chief Admiral Vladimir Kuroyedov is axed.

"Our rescuers, who work on our equipment, train from time
to time during working hours and besides that do nothing else
but wait for a chance to rescue someone. That is probably bad,"
RIA Novosti quoted him as saying.

One of the rescued crew questioned why the mini-sub was
even doing the work it was.

Gennady Bolonin, who works for the company that made the
AS-28 and who was one of the saved crew, told the Russian media
the submersible was not designed for the work it was doing --
monitoring and repairing a secret antenna device.


Putin said this week that medals should be awarded to the
British naval workers who saved the Russian crew, some of whom
were shown today by local television lighting candles at a
Russian Orthodox church to give thanks for their rescue.

But the Navy's handling of the accident was still under the
media spotlight on Thursday.

Izvestia newspaper quoted submarine experts as saying
Russia lacked trained rescue specialists, while Rossiiskaya
Gazeta carried an interview with the wife of one of the AS-28

Yelena Milashevskaya, the wife of the officer who led the
crew, told the paper she was so short of money when the
accident happened that she could not feed her children and that
journalists loaned her some cash.

"Our husbands were saved by us, the wives, and by you, the
press, including the foreign press," she told the paper. "The
uproar frightened (officials)."