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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Navy Captain Charged in Sinking of Submarine

The captain of the vessel that was towing a decommissioned nuclear submarine when it sank in the Barents Sea last weekend has been charged with violating the rules of marine navigation, the chief military prosecutor said Wednesday.

"I am convinced that the commander of the tow boat must be held responsible for the information that he gives and the resulting actions," Prosecutor Alexander Savenkov said at a news conference.

He said Captain Sergei Zhemchuzhnov has been charged with breaking navigation rules.

The K-159 submarine sank Saturday during a storm while being towed to a port on the Kola Peninsula, where its reactor was to be removed and dismantled and the rest of the ship scrapped. Nine of the 10 men aboard were killed.

Officials have said that pontoons attached to the K-159 for the towing were ripped off by the storm and that its conning tower was open when it went down.

But Channel One television reported Wednesday that military investigators were looking into whether the crew of the submarine radioed the tow boat minutes before the steel cables snapped to report a leak.

Savenkov said a panel of scientists has been chosen to investigate the disaster and promised that there would be no secrets in the investigation. He said the experts would also examine the possibility of raising the submarine.

Navy and Nuclear Power Ministry officials have said that radiation levels remained normal in the sinking area, some 300 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle. Navy chief of staff Admiral Viktor Kravchenko said ships from the Northern Fleet will remain in the area where the submarine sank until it is raised, Interfax reported.

Commenting on another recent military disaster, Savenkov said the flight commander for two military helicopters that collided in the Far East, killing five, exceeded his authority when he gave permission for them to land together.

"I am absolutely convinced that the flight commander, who gave permission for the double landing ... without doubt exceeded his authority," he said. "This undoubtedly is a crime."

The two Mi-24 helicopters collided on Aug. 26 while attempting to land at the Chernigovka airfield during military exercises in the Primorye region.

Savenkov said the local military prosecutor had finished an investigation into the collision and would charge the flight commander Thursday. He said there was no evidence backing reports that a bird might have caused the crash.