14 Russian navy sailors were killed in a submersible vessel fire

A Russian Naval ship.
(Image credit: Murad Sezer/Reuters)

Russian President Vladimir Putin pulled out of a planned event centered on tourism on Tuesday after receiving word that 14 Russian sailors were killed when a fire broke out on Monday in a submersible research vessel. It was the worst naval incident in Russia in a decade.

The Russian Defense Ministry said the sailors died from smoke inhalation. It is unclear exactly when on Monday the fire broke out and when the deaths were first reported to Russian officials like Putin.

The vessel, designed for deep-sea exploration to study the ocean floor, is reportedly linked to a secret nuclear submarine project, and crew members were reportedly performing biometric measurements in Russian territorial waters.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

The Defense Ministry did not give any details about the cause of the incident, though the vessel is reportedly now at the Russian Northern Fleet's Severomorsk base in the Murmansk region on the Barents Sea coast in the northernmost reaches of the country, above the Arctic Circle. An investigation into the cause of the fire is reportedly underway, though a military expert who spoke anonymously with Agence France-Presse said that it's unlikely the fire happened during scientific research. "Usually it's a cover for different type of work conducted on the seabed," like laying cables, the expert said.

The incident is the latest in a string of disasters experienced by Russia's navy, Agence France-Presse reports. AFP adds that Monday's incident is particularly reminiscent of the sinking of the Kursk submarine in 2000 that caused 118 deaths.

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.

Tim O'Donnell

Tim is a staff writer at The Week and has contributed to Bedford and Bowery and The New York Transatlantic. He is a graduate of Occidental College and NYU's journalism school. Tim enjoys writing about baseball, Europe, and extinct megafauna. He lives in New York City.