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Last Updated: Monday, 12 January, 2004, 16:21 GMT
Admiral in court over sub sinking
Suchkov and Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov
Suspended navy commander Gennady Suchkov (left)
A Russian admiral charged with negligence over the sinking of a submarine has gone on trial on Monday.

Gennady Suchkov, who was suspended as commander of Russia's Northern Fleet after the incident, appeared at a military court with other officials.

The K-159 submarine sank in the Barents Sea in bad weather last August, killing nine of its 10 crew members.

The submarine had been out of service for 14 years and was being taken to have its nuclear reactors removed.

Only two of the bodies of the dead seamen were recovered.

Trial judge Alexander Khomyakov told reporters Mr Suchkov had been charged with "negligence causing the death of one or more persons."

The trial at the naval base of Severomorsk, in Russia's Far North, is being held behind closed doors to protect military secrets.

Mr Khomyakov said 85 witnesses were expected to give testimony in hearings that could last several months.

We want to know clearly who ordered a crew to be put aboard an unsafe submarine with no rescue resources
Olga Knyazova, widow
Russian President Vladimir Putin suspended Admiral Suchkov in September, amid allegations of a series of "preventable" mistakes.

Families of the dead seamen gathered near the military courthouse on Monday calling for all the facts of the case to be made public.

Widow Olga Knyazova said: "We want to know clearly who ordered a crew to be put aboard an unsafe submarine with no rescue resources. How was it that even after seven hours they couldn't save the men?"

Tatyana Smirnova, another widow, said she did not believe the official version that her husband had died by drowning.

"Why don't they admit he died of cold?" she said. "You drown when you can't swim. When you're not saved in time you die of cold."

Wreck risks

The submarine, whose two nuclear reactors were shut down in 1989, is still lying at a depth of 238 metres (780 feet) in the Barents Sea.

It has no weapons aboard, Russian officials say.

But local officials from Russia's northern Murmansk region argue there is a general risk from decommissioned nuclear submarines in the area.

Regional Duma chairman Pavel Sahinov said that 119 such submarines had been taken out of service from the Northern Fleet - and only 58 were recycled.

The rest posed a major radiation risk not only for Russia's Kola peninsula, but also Norway's northern region, he told the Itar-Tass news agency last week.

"The resolution of this problem depends entirely on the federal authorities," he added.

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