Relatives of sub disaster dead to appeal acquittal


The relatives of the victims of a gas leak on a Russian nuclear submarine three years ago will appeal a not-guilty ruling for the captain and a sailor.

Twenty people, mostly civilians, were killed when fire-suppressant freon gas was released on the Nerpa attack submarine during sea trials in the Sea of Japan in November 2008.

Another 21 people were injured in Russia’s worst naval accident since the sinking of the Kursk nuclear submarine in 2000.

The Nerpa’s captain, Dmitry Lavrentyev, and engineer Dmitry Grobov, who allegedly activated the sub’s fire safety system “without authorization and for no reason,” have been charged with negligence.

A court martial in Russia’s Far Eastern port city of Vladivostok acquitted the two men last week.

“The relatives of those killed are outraged by the not guilty decision, we will appeal to the Supreme Court,” Margarita Surenkova, the mother of a sailor who died in the 2008 accident, told RIA Novosti.

The Nerpa was undergoing shakedown trials and had 208 people aboard, nearly three times its normal complement.

A former senior medical officer with the Pacific Fleet alleged in May the Nerpa’s firefighting system contained a “lethal” mixture of freon and trichloroethylene – a commonly used industrial solvent which is highly toxic and corrosive – rather than pure freon.

Workers at the Amur Shipyard, where the submarine was built, said in an open letter in the same month that Lavrentyev and Grobov were “scapegoats” and that the disaster was the result of “corruption and disintegration of the military-industrial sector.”

The Nerpa is due to be leased to the Indian navy next month.

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