MOSCOW – July 8, 2019 – Earlier last week, a fire aboard a top-secret Russian nuclear submarine could have led to a “catastrophe of global proportions” if not for the selfless actions of the crew, a senior navy official was cited by Russian media.
Fourteen Russian submariners were killed on July 1 during a fire in a deep-water research submersible that was surveying the sea floor near the Arctic, Russia’s Defence Ministry reported.
The funeral ceremony for the submariners was held on Saturday in St. Petersburg.
“They all shared one and the same fate – to save the lives of their comrades, to save their vessel and to prevent a catastrophe of global proportions at the cost of their own lives,” Sergei Pavlov, an aide to the Russian navy’s commander, was quoted as saying at the funeral by St Petersburg media outlet Fontanka on Saturday.
Although the Defense Ministry is yet to specify how exactly the fire could have resulted in a global catastrophe, at the moment we can only assume it had to do with the fact that it was a nuclear submarine. The crew contained the fire and isolated the submarine’s nuclear reactor, thus preventing a potential “Arctic Chernobyl”.
Last week, President Vladimir Putin bestowed Russia’s highest award – the title of Hero of Russia – on four of the men and granted another top national award — the Order of Courage — to the 10 others.
Putin has said that the submarine was manned by an elite and senior crew, two of whom already held the Hero of Russia title before their final mission.
Soviet and Russian servicemen have a long history of preventing global catastrophes.
In a similar incident in 1961, second-in-command of a Soviet nuclear submarine, Vasily Alexandrovich Arkhipov, along with his other comrades managed to prevent a nuclear disaster while aboard K-19 nuclear submarine. All members of the crew, including Arkhipov, were irradiated but managed to stop any significant radiation leak.
However, next year, 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, would make Arkhipov an even greater hero, when he refused to use nuclear weapons in case of a communication loss with the rest of the Soviet fleet, thus preventing a nuclear war with the US. He later went on to become a Vice Admiral of the Soviet Navy.
In 1983, Soviet Colonel Stanislav Petrov became known as the man who single-handedly saved the world from nuclear war for his role in the nuclear false alarm incident, when he kept his cool and decided not to unleash Soviet nuclear arsenal, which prevented the destruction of much of the world.