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2 dead as Russian nuke sub sinks

From CNN Moscow Bureau Chief Jill Dougherty

Decommissioned Russian submarines anchored at Zvezda plant in Russia.
Decommissioned Russian submarines anchored at Zvezda plant in Russia.

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CNN Special Report: Death of the Kursk 

MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- A Russian submarine carrying a crew of 10 sank Saturday in stormy waters in the Barents Sea as it was being towed to a scrapyard, killing at least two sailors, the Defense Ministry said.

The Russian military was pointing fingers at Navy officials in the early stages of the investigation, military sources said.

One sailor was rescued, but little hope was held out for the remaining seven crew members who were aboard the K159 nuclear submarine, which was decommissioned in 1989, said Russian Navy Chief of State Viktor Kravchenko.

"Taking into account the current weather conditions in the Northern Fleet area, as you know, a human being cannot survive for more than 34 minutes at this temperature," he said about the Arctic waters between Russia and Norway in which the vessel sank.

"The objective is to find the missing personnel and retrieve them from the water," he said.

The vessel, which was being towed by four large floating hulls, was being transferred to a plant where the reactor and any remaining nuclear fuel were to be removed, the ministry said.

The sub's twin nuclear reactors, which normally power the K159, had been deactivated, according to the ministry.

Interfax quoted a retired admiral as saying the sunken sub poses no ecological threat, since its reactors' active zones had been removed and thick metal walls contain the slight amount of radioactivity left.

Sources in the chief military prosecutor's office told the Interfax news agency that some Navy officials have already been charged with violating navigation rules that led to the sinking.

"It is already obvious that the Northern Fleet command broke the law and did not show enough resolution in carrying out rescue operations," Interfax quoted a source saying.

The sources told Russia's Interfax news agency that a deputy commander of the submarine division had been named as one of those whose actions constituted malfeasance in the incident.

They also said the captain in charge of the submarine's transport to the scrapyard had ordered the trip to begin despite a poor weather forecast.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was been informed of the incident while in Italy to meet with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

"Of course, all reasons for the tragedy will be established," Reuters quoted Putin as telling reporters on board the warship Moskva off Sardinia.

The accident occurred three years after two explosions ripped through Russia's Kursk nuclear submarine, causing it to sink in the Barents Sea. All 118 men aboard died in the August 12, 2000 accident. (Special Report)

A senior Russian minister said a faulty torpedo was to blame.

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