Russian leaders have praised 14 sailors who died in a fire aboard a nuclear research submarine last week, saying their actions averted what could’ve escalated into a “planetary catastrophe.”
The fire broke out aboard the deep-water research sub near the Arctic on July 1. Russian President Vladimir Putin said the top secret submarine had a nuclear reactor aboard.
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the fire started in the submarine’s battery compartment, but the sailors acted quickly to seal off the flames to prevent widespread damage.
“The nuclear reactor on the vessel is completely isolated,” Shoigu told Putin. “All the necessary measures were taken by the crew to protect the reactor, which is in complete working order.”
Deputy Andrei Kartapolov said the sailors are heroes for sealing a hatch that closed off other parts of the submarine. Officials lauded the men during funerals in St. Petersburg over the weekend.
The 230-foot submarine is the Russian navy’s most advanced deep water vessel, capable of diving to depths of nearly 20,000 feet. But few details are known about its mission. The submarine works in tandem with larger submarines and may have been tethered to the Podmoskovye atomic submarine at the time of the incident in the Barents Sea, officials said.