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Nerpa submarine not for 'supply' to India: Russian official

Russia's Nerpa (Akula Class SSN) nuclear attack submarine. Photo by RIA Novosti

MOSCOW (PTI): Russia did not hold any talks with India for the “supply” of the K-152 Nerpa nuclear-powered submarine, which was involved in a mishap that killed 20 people, a defence industry official said.

"Russia did not launch talks on a contract to supply India with the Nerpa nuclear-powered submarine," the unnamed official was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti on Wednesday.

Twenty people, including 17 technical staff of the shipyard and sub-contractors, died due to triggering of fire safety system and release of toxic Freon gas used to suppress the blaze late on Saturday night while the submarine was undergoing sea trials in the Sea of Japan.

On careful reading of the Russian official denials, they have not used the word “leasing”. Reports have maintained that India was supposed to get the submarine on a 10-year lease early next year.

Earlier, Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, during his India visit had also said: "Russia does not supply nuclear submarines."

According to official sources, there is a difference between “supply” and “lease”. While supply presumes transfer of ownership, in the case of lease, the ownership remains with the Federal Property Agency -- Rosimuschestvo.

"Under the Russian laws, all the defence equipment and arms are the federal property attached to the Defence Ministry and armed forces and can be sold or leased to a foreign party under inter-governmental agreements in line with Russia's international obligations only with the permission of Rosimuschestvo," a government source elaborated.

While refusing to comment on the leasing of Nerpa submarine to India, the sources said that at this juncture, the submarine is technically the property of the shipyard and would become state asset only after its commissioning by the Russian Navy.

Meanwhile, the Chief of General Staff of Russian Armed Forces, General Nikolai Makarov, on Wednesday said that Nerpa will be commissioned by the Russian Navy after the probe into the mishap is over.

"During trials, in spite of the tragic mishap and casualties, this nuclear submarine has demonstrated reliable functioning of all its components and systems, of course, except the fire-suppressing system," Gen Makarov was quoted as saying by AVN-Interfax Military Newswire.

A probe panel consisting of experts from military industries and Defence Ministry is currently investigating the cause of unauthorised triggering of the fire-extinguishing system aboard the submarine.

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