VLADIVOSTOK, May 8 (RIA Novosti) – Navy prosecutors in Russia’s Far East have appealed the acquittal of two crew members of a Russian Navy nuclear attack submarine over a high-profile, deadly accident in 2008, officials said on Wednesday.
Twenty men were suffocated in November 2008 aboard the Nerpa, an Akula II-class attack submarine, during sea trials in the Sea of Japan, after its freon gas-based fire suppression system was accidently triggered.
The boat’s captain, Dmitry Lavrentyev, was charged with abuse of office and an engineer, Dmitry Grobov, was accused of causing death by negligence. The two pleaded not guilty and were cleared of the charges in a jury retrial last month.
“In our opinion, Lavrentyev and Grobov are the only ones guilty of the accident. They are the ones who should be held responsible. We regret that the jury failed to understand this,” the Pacific Fleet navy prosecutors’ spokesperson told RIA Novosti on Wednesday.
Nuclear Submarine Nerpa
This is the second time the navy prosecution has appealed Lavrentyev and Grobov’s acquittal. A jury previously acquitted both men on September 14, 2011, but the Supreme Court’s military board overturned the verdict in May 2012 and ordered a retrial.
A number of senior naval officers have accused the prosecutors and the defense industry of making scapegoats out of the men.
There were 208 people on board the submarine at the time of the disaster, almost three times the boat’s normal complement, as the crew included shipyard staff as well as navy crew. The accident was Russia’s worst naval disaster since the sinking of the Kursk nuclear submarine in 2000, when 118 people died.