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Friday, September 11, 1998 Published at 23:11 GMT 00:11 UK

World: Europe

Russian sailor dies in sub shoot-out

The conscipt is reported to have locked himself in a nuclear-powered submarine

The Russian Defence Ministry says a sailor who shot dead eight colleagues before barricading himself inside a nuclear-powered submarine committed suicide - contrary to earlier reports that he had been killed by the security forces.

It said the 19-year-old sailor, Alexander Kuzminykh, killed himself as security forces stormed the vessel at Murmansk in northern Russia.

Attempts to persuade him to surrender had failed.

Armed officers stormed the nuclear submarine just after midnight on Saturday local time, the Itar-Tass news agency said.

Kuzminykh's mother had been flown to the the naval base at Skalisty, near Murmansk, in northern Russia, before officers stormed the submarine.

But she was unable to persuade her son to give himself up.

Kuzminykh had earlier been detained on punishment charges, but broke out from his quarters and seized the guard's automatic rifle and killed him.

He then went below where he shot dead five more men. Two servicemen were also taken hostage and later killed, according to Russian news reports.

A special anti-terrorist commando unit of the Federal Security Service (FSB) was sent to the base.

The Defence Ministry said there were no nuclear weapons aboard the Akula [shark] class submarine, part of the Russian navy's Northern Fleet.

The submarine's nuclear reactor would not normally be in operation when the submarine was docked.

Suicides and desertions

The Murmansk region is base for dozens of Soviet-era submarines, many of them nuclear-powered, which rarely put to sea for want of fuel and supplies.

The BBC Moscow correspondent says that attacks of this sort are frequent in Russia's under-fed and demoralised military units, where young conscripts are routinely subjected to brutal bullying by older conscripts, leading to suicides and desertions.

Over the past 12 months, 15 servicemen were killed in incidents at bases in Russia's remote regions.

Just last Saturday, the Northern Fleet suffered another mutiny when five sailors from Dagestan in the Caucasus killed a fellow guard at a nuclear installation on the Arctic Island of Novaya Zemlya, and took 48 hostages, including dozens of schoolchildren. They were later overpowered.

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