Besides the sinking of the Kursk, the Russian Navy has had several other bad accidents this year : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

While the world focused on the Russian Navy's tragic loss of the nuclear submarine "Kursk" during the fall of 2000, safety problems had plagued Moscow's fleets throughout the entire year. Some of the incidents qualified as strategic near-misses with potential consequences easily cable of overshadowing the loss of 118 submariners.


On 10 April, the Pacific Fleet's Large Antisubmarine Warfare Ship "Admiral Vinogradov" (with a full basic load of ammunition) was anchored in Vladivostok's Zolotoy Rog Bay and the destroyer "Burnyy" was anchored alongside wharf 33, opposite the Pacific Fleet Staff headquarters.

The initial Itar-Tass report claimed that the "Burnyy" rammed the "Admiral Vinogradov", that both ships had dented hulls and theorized that a heavy snowfall had impaired visibility.

The first official version was that around 1300 local time, the "Burnyy" accidentally fired a single 30mm practice round that had been left chambered, but Far East Technical State University students on board the ASW that day for practice exercises claimed that there was an entire salvo of at least 30 to 40 rounds. Pacific Fleet counterintelligence agent Lieutenant Colonel Aleksandr Kreus later confirmed to Segodnya that "around 10 antiaircraft rounds were fired from an AK-630 launcher at the port side of the antisubmarine ship."

The six-barrel gatling-gun system, designed to protect ships from incoming AShMs like the Harpoon and Exocet, has a rate of fire from 1,000 - 5,000 rounds/min and a muzzle velocity is 880 m/s. The 8,480 ton Sovremennyy class large surface warfare "Burnyy" has four such 30mm air-defense weapons.

According to investigators, the misfire was the result of an equipment safety rules violation when a conscript sailor was checking the fire control electric firing circuit. Before carrying out such a check, the ammunition belt in the firing position should have been lowered into the magazine. This was not done and when the circuit was closed, the weapon fired. Russian military experts said that had a live round penetrated the hull and struck some 10 meters further to the left, in the area of the powder magazine, an explosion would have been inevitable.

The Pacific Fleet Staff pointed out that the incident was not exceptional during practice exercises. Experienced fleet officers recalled that when exercises were regularly held, there were two or three cases of "unsanctioned firing" each year. When accidental discharges were on the high seas, the shell usually landed harmlessly in the ocean. Similar incidents also occurred by Zolotoy Rog Bay's Wharf 33, where warships traditionally moor. In the early eighties, there were two unsanctioned firings of torpedoes there - one in the presence of a Navy Main Staff commission.

The Admiral Vinogradov also had personnel problems earlier, when one of her Petty Officers was accused of stealing a 15-kilogram, two-meter-long $30,000 missile launcher from the ship. The police believed that the buyers (a director of the Varyag company and an unemployed man) were planning to sell the weapon to Chechen rebels.


At 0642 hours Moscow time (13.30 local) on 16 June, decommissioned ballistic missiles were being loaded onto a transport vessel in Konyushkov Bay near the settlement of Dunay (60 km east of Vladivostok). A cable slipped and a 38-ton RCM-50 missile hit a railing, then fell 25 feet back into the ship's hold. One of the tanks of oxidizing agent (NO4 - an oxygen and nitric acid compound) cracked, releasing 100 liters of liquid. On contact with the air, a yellow cloud approximately 300 by 500 meters formed while more oxidizing agent leaked into the ship's hold.

The wind carried the cloud along the shore and a warning was radioed to the town of Fokino (population 30,000), which was in the cloud's path. It was five hours after the event before authorities warned people to stay indoors and roadblocks to the coast were set up in the nearby city of Nakhodka (pop. 162,000). Residents were told to stay indoors and close their windows, but the cloud dispersed 3km from shore.

Five servicemen and six members of a ship's crew were admitted to a hospital, but the Russian Defense Ministry told the press that there was no reason to be concerned for their condition. Naval Staff specialists told the Russian newspaper Izvestiya that, had the oxidizing agent combined with the fuel, an explosion might have occurred.

Around twenty-two people were ultimately hospitalized from the accident, nine with chemical burns to the upper respiratory tract. Another fifty citizens from nearby dachas reported an acrid taste in their mouths and coughing fits.

The accident was ultimately traced to the crane's condition. For handling strategic nuclear missiles, the Russian Navy needed a total of 95 cranes. There had no new ones purchased in the last ten years, while many of the Soviet-era ones had been written off and the remainder continued to be used past their prime.

The RCM-50's payload was three 200 kt nuclear warheads but since the missiles were slated to be scrapped because their service life had expired, no warheads were fitted. Had a warhead been involved, a radiation contaminated cloud could have conceivably reached Vladivostok.


At 1730 local time [0630 gmt] on 14 September, the 6,700-ton anti-submarine ship "Admiral Panteleyev" discharged one of her weapons at the Pacific coast village of Slavyanka 3 during military exercises. Initially reported as a "torpedo", the Russian press later said it was a large-caliber shell (probably the ship's 100mm gun). The shell landed in a bog 200 meters from the village, leaving a crater 1.5 meters deep. Luckily, no one was injured and nothing damaged by the accident

The Pacific Fleet press-service reported that the inexperienced crew mistakenly fired in the opposite direction of the intended target, but stressed that the shells used in the exercises had no explosive charges. The press-service has also refuted media reports that an old villager was "shell-shocked" by the incident. "A commission from the Fleet Headquarters has visited the site of the incident and the village administration. It has not received any information about deaths or injuries".

Adam Geibel

-- Rich Marsh (, October 03, 2001

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