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Last Updated: Monday, 8 August 2005, 09:12 GMT 10:12 UK
Russia to hold sub drama inquiry
The mini-sub's commander salutes as he comes ashore
The sub's commander saluted as he came ashore after the ordeal
Russia's president has ordered an investigation into how a submersible rescued with foreign help on Sunday managed to get trapped in deep water.

Seven men spent some 76 hours in the naval mini-submarine in the Pacific, with a dwindling air supply.

The Russians thanked a UK team whose underwater robot cut nets and antenna cables which had snagged the craft.

The sub's crew had written farewell notes as they endured cold, hunger and thirst on the seabed.

But when the sub resurfaced the men were able to climb out unaided. They are now recovering in hospital and their health is reported to be satisfactory.

I cried and danced for joy
Mini-sub commander's wife

The Priz AS-28 submersible had got stuck on Thursday 190 metres (620ft) below the surface off the Kamchatka peninsula in Russia's Far East.

Russian efforts to rescue the sub's crew, which included looping a cable onto the vessel to drag it to higher waters, had failed earlier.

Meagre supplies

During their ordeal the crew had just a few gulps of water a day to drink and just a few biscuits to eat, Russian media report.

Congratulating the UK team, Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov presented them with watches and also promised awards for the rescued crew. He had witnessed the rescue operation off Kamchatka.

The mini-sub's commander Vyacheslav Milashevsky saluted as he came ashore in Patrovpavlovsk-Kamchatsky to a reception of relatives, sailors and local residents.

The Associated Press said he looked pale but walked confidently and told journalists he felt "fine".

Lt Milashevsky's wife Yelena spoke of her relief on hearing of his safe return.

"I danced. I was glad, I cried and I danced for joy," she told Russian Channel One TV.

Russian defence ministry sources quoted by the daily Kommersant on Monday say the commander of the Russian navy, Admiral Vladimir Kuroyedov, will be sent into retirement soon.

He had also seen his navy embarrassed on 30 July by the near sinking of a flagship vessel during an exercise in St Petersburg on the eve of Russian Navy Day.
Drawing of how mini-submarine snagged by netting shown on Russian NTV
The mini-submarine got into trouble on Thursday

There had still been no public word from or appearance by President Vladimir Putin by the time the rescued men went ashore on Sunday, three days after the ordeal began.

The BBC's Sarah Rainsford in Moscow says that questions are now being asked, including:

  • why Russia still has no modern deep-sea rescue equipment, five years after the sinking of the Kursk nuclear submarine in which 118 sailors perished
  • why information on this accident from the navy was again late in coming and then deeply contradictory.

Pinned to the seabed

The submersible was snagged in vast fishing nets and in a network of underwater antennae forming part of a military coastal surveillance system, Russian officials said.

The network was described as a two-tier antennae lattice covering an area of 750 sq m and held in place by 60-ton anchors.

The British Scorpio craft involved in the rescue was flown to Kamchatka and taken out to sea on a Russian vessel.

The managing director of a British firm involved in the rescue - Rumic - told the BBC the operation had taken several hours.

"There were a lot of fishing nets which we had to cut away, but there were no steel cables, although some of it did look like steel. Initial reports could have suggested there were steel rather than nylon nets," Roger Chapman told the BBC.

According to the commander of the Pacific Fleet, Admiral Viktor Fyodorov, fishermen had violated the navy's rules in the bay, abandoning nets which had got caught on the underwater surveillance system. They had not informed the navy about it, he said.

In pictures: Russian sub rescue
07 Aug 05 |  In Pictures
Press haunted by Kursk memories
06 Aug 05 |  Europe
Russia's rusting navy
23 Mar 04 |  Europe

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