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2005

Trapped Russian sub rescued

On this day in 2005, a Russian Priz AS-28 mini-submarine, with seven crew members on board, is rescued from deep in the Pacific Ocean. On August 4, the vessel had been taking part in training exercises in Beryozovaya Bay, off the coast of Russia’s far-eastern Kamchatka peninsula, when its propellers became entangled in cables that were part of Russia’s coastal monitoring system. Unable to surface, the sub’s crew was stranded in the dark, freezing submarine for more than three days.

At 1 p.m. on August 4, the Priz, trapped at 190 meters below the ocean surface, issued a mayday call. The Russian navy soon began to organize a rescue mission, asking for help from the United Kingdom, United States and Japan. In the ensuing days, while the three countries mobilized rescue crews for the trip to eastern Russia, the Russian navy attempted to first lift the sub from the water and later to drag it to shallower water where it could be reached by divers. Both approaches were complicated by the 60-ton anchor attached to the cables that had ensnared the sub. Finally, with fears mounting that the trapped crew’s oxygen supply would soon run out, the six-man crew of a British-owned-and-operated Scorpio-45 rescue sub arrived and was able to cut the sub loose. All seven on board, which included six Russian navy seamen and one representative of the company that made the sub, survived the ordeal.

The Priz incident occurred just five years after the Kursk, a Russian nuclear submarine, sank, killing all 118 people on board. In that disaster, the Russian government had delayed asking for outside help for some 30 hours and was widely blamed for the sailors deaths. As the disaster unfolded, Russian President Vladimir Putin stunned the public by failing to address the nation and even refused to cut short his vacation in light of the tragedy.

Although Russians everywhere were relieved and happy that the Priz was successfully rescued, others could not believe that the Russian navy had not acquired its own rescue equipment in the five years since the Kursk tragedy. For many, the Priz incident highlighted the effect of a decade of decay on the once-mighty Russian military.

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