A British navy team which played a major role in the deep-sea rescue of a Russian mini-submarine has been praised by defence secretary John Reid.
The Scorpio sub was flown to Russia in an RAF cargo plane
The British Scorpio craft, an unmanned underwater robot, sliced through nets entangling the submarine, stranded for three days beneath the Pacific Ocean.
The Priz had dropped to 190m (620ft) off the Kamchatka peninsula on Thursday and was entangled on the ocean floor.
Mr Reid said he wanted to congratulate all of the UK team involved.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Tony Blair said he had also been closely following events.
Mr Reid said: "I am delighted we have been able to offer assistance to this rescue operation, which has been a fine example of international co-operation in the face of great difficulty.
Max depth: 925m
Tools: Cable cutter, lifting arms, pumps
"Britain has a world-leading capability in the field of submarine rescue and we have been able to utilise that capability to save lives.
"I'd like to offer my congratulations to all of those involved."
And Commander Jonty Powis, a Royal Navy specialist on submarine escape, said the rescue was "an excellent result".
"We were conscious that the crew were running out of oxygen and that we could not afford any great delays in cutting them free."
The Russian submarine's seven-man crew, who are all alive and well, had faced dwindling oxygen supplies and low temperatures.
The British vehicle, known as a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV), is an unmanned remote-controlled submersible that is used in situations that are too dangerous or too deep to send divers.
The Scorpio succeeded in cutting the Priz free
A team of up to four operators were led by Commander Ian Riches, head of the MoD's Submarine Escape and Rescue team.
Assistance was provided by a team of Russian experts and a small team of US divers who assisted with breathing apparatus.
The US Navy also sent an unmanned craft to the disaster site, around 70km offshore.
The Priz - itself a rescue vehicle - had been on a training exercise when it got snagged.
Russian navy spokesman Igor Dygalo said: "The submarine resurfaced and the seven submariners are alive.
"They emerged by themselves, transferred to a motor-launch and will be placed aboard a ship where they will receive medical treatment."
The Russian crew is expected to be taken to hospital in the regional capital Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky for observation and medical care.
The men on board Priz reportedly had to cope with temperatures of around 6C (42.8F) and dwindling oxygen supplies by wearing thermal suits and keeping still.
Reports varied on the cause of the sinking. Officials said the mini-submarine was trapped by both a vast fishing net and an underwater antenna.
The Scorpio was accompanied by an operating crew of eight civilians and one Royal Navy member - as well as 20 other staff, including British police officers.
The AS-28 'Priz' minisub can operate at depths of 1,000m, but 190m is too deep to allow the crew to attempt escape