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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 May, 2004, 13:43 GMT 14:43 UK
Admiral convicted for sub deaths
Suchkov (left) and Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov
Admiral Suchkov (left) plans to appeal against the verdict
A Russian military court has handed down a suspended four-year prison sentence to an admiral over the sinking of a decommissioned nuclear submarine.

Admiral Gennady Suchkov was suspended as head of the Russian Navy's Northern Fleet shortly after the submarine sank last August.

Nine of the 10 crewmen died when a storm ripped the pontoons from the K-159 submarine in the Barents Sea.

The vessel was being towed to a scrapyard at the time.

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.

Admiral Suchkov pleaded not guilty to the charge of negligence and his lawyers said he would appeal.

"As the chief commanding officer of the fleet I do not absolve myself from responsibility," he said after the sentence. "But I do not feel guilty in the judicial sense of the term."

The trial was held behind closed doors at the naval base of Severomorsk, in Russia's Arctic north.

The Russian navy commander, Admiral Vladimir Kuroyedov, has said Northern Fleet commanders disregarded safety rules when they authorised the towing of the submarine despite a bad weather forecast.

He also said that the tugboat had moved faster than allowed by official regulations.

Even after the storm ripped off some of the pontoons and the submarine tilted onto its stern, the commanders did not move to evacuate the crew, he was quoted as saying.

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.

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