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Vyacheslav Milashevsky (center), commander of the rescueed crew of the AS-28 captain-lieutenant, after the successful end of saving operation of the bathyscaphe at coast of Kamchatka
Photo: Valery Melnikov
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 Aug. 09, 2005  13:43 
congratiolations from Holland. All Russians can be verry proud that seven sub.workers could be saved. With ... >>
Aug. 08, 2005
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They Make It to the Shore
// Russian submariners have been saved by the British Fleet
The operation rescuing the Priz mini-submarine, which sank August 4 carrying seven men, terminated yesterday in Berezovaya Bay in the Pacific Ocean. Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov went to the scene to find that British rescuers managed to cut loose the vehicle snarled in undersea cables. Kommersant correspondent Oleg Kashin watched the rescue relief in Kamchatka with the sailors relatives.
No one knows the name of the woman who called the local Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky Radio 3 station on Friday morning saying she is the wife of a submariner (but she did not mention her name) and reported that the AS-28 Priz mini-submarine with seven sailors abroad was in distress in Berezovaya Bay. Later it turned out that that one of men was civilian, deputy of the chief designer of Nizhny Novgorod Lazurit Central Design Bureau Gennady Polonin. The information was aired on the radio, a few hours later a source in the staff of the task force and troops of North-East of Russia stationed in the peninsula confirmed the information to the local press. From this moment on, this information was no longer a secret, and Deputy Commander-in-chief of the Russian Navy Mikhail Zakharenko, who had arrived on Kamchatka Thursday from Moscow, could no longer pretend that his trip was just scheduled fact-finding and shunned the press. All the staff of the force was also ordered to refrain from answering any questions of civilians flocking Kamchatka.

However, the staff of the 70076 military unit (the rescue squad which owns Georgy Kozmin vessel with two vehicles of the Priz type abroad) treated the order in quite a formal way, to put it mildly. At the staff headquarters (an ordinary two-storey building on the shore of Avachinskaya Bay without any fencing), I was met by an officer on the watch who engaged me in the conversation about the sunken vehicle.

Youre a journalist, arent you? Came to write about the second Kursk? he asked me lighting a cigarette. Leave Kursk alone, its not Kursk yet.

The officer told me that Vladimir Cheremokhin, captain of the second rank and the commander of the 28 sub, had went on vacation a few days before the incident:

He did it right, he is a robust guy he would need the oxygen for seven men.

The commander was summoned to the staff right after the accident and he is now waiting for instructions. Captain Lieutenant Vyacheslav Milashevsky, 25, commanded the vehicle in the absence of Cheremokhin. He is the son of Captain Lieutenant Vladimir Milashevsky who commanded the AS-28 from the moment of its construction in the same 1989. Elena, Vyacheslavs wife, said she was caught off the guard by the news at dacha with her 2-year-old twin daughters Sasha and Nastya. She rushed to Petropavlovsk but did not find the strength to go home.

We have just moved in there, Elena Milashevskaya says. There are Slavas still unpacked things, and there a big model of the bathyscaphe in the living-room he carved from wood. I cant be there now.

Lena stayed during the rescue relief at her elder sisters Svetlana in the same neighborhood of Zavoyko, Petropavlovsk suburb, which is made up of a few dozens of shabby five-storeyed buildings and a shop called Canadian Bread scatted on bald mountains. Zavoyko is mainly inhabited by submarine officers and their families. Lena is talking to me lying in the bed: after another news program she went into hysterics, an ambulance car arrived and a doctor made her an injection. Lena is too anxious because her husbands father, Milashevsky Sr., told her he had calculated that the air in Priz would have run out on Saturday midnight. Lena believes the words of her father-in-law because she has no one else to believe in, because no one cares about them.

They say on the telly that physiologists are working with the families, the woman is crying. Where are they? No one has visited me yet.

Slava was to leave in late August for Nizhny Novgorod on detachment for Krasnoye Sormovo plant where the AS-28t vehicle was to go under repairs. It was in an emergency state, it has not been repaired for so many years, the woman says. This is just the first breakdown that was reported. The wiring went on fire there there are so many things in emergency state there.

Lena breaks down again, the doctor made an injection for her, she lays down on the bed and keeps on recounting how the husband called her on the Navy Day saying he had been awarded a merit certificate for good settings afloat from the commander and how he longed to join them at the dacha but he was summoned to the service again and never came back. She recollects that she was dreaming the Thursday night that she had lost her wedding ring and there was another, somebody elses and ugly one on her finger. I was screaming in my sleep: take it away, thats not my ring, Lena says. I remembered in the morning that this kind of dream brings a big trouble.

It was only early morning that a psychologist from the Department of the Moral Welfare of the Forces came to Lena. He calmed me down well, the woman was telling me Sunday noon. The first thing he told me was: well, I think, they will run out of air, everyone will die. And then he added saying goodbye to me: pray, you have nothing else left to do.

The psychologists visit, however, took Lena out of hysterics. She was no longer crying and only called the staff of the force every couple of minutes. The staff seemed to have more important things to do: Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov arrived in Petropavlovsk Sunday morning.

The minister went from the airport to the staff for an extraordinary meeting. Later, with three cameramen he sailed to the site of the accident on Razliv small-size missile ship. British rescuers with the underwater remotely operated Scorpio vehicle had already been working on the scene for a few hours. Americans came some time later and started unloading equipment in Petropavlovsks port when the meeting started. After Mr. Ivanovs ships was gone to the sea, the American had just started loading. The Priz 29 (the vehicle was lately out of order and was onboard only as a model in case of checks) was taken off Georgy Kozmin standing by the berth, and the crew started loading American Scorpios. US Assistant Naval Attaché Bill Hamlet, who had arrived from Moscow a few days before, commanded the operation. Mr. Hamlet was gloomy. Under the most optimistic forecasts, the loading was to take five hours, while the British had already cut two of five cables trapped in the mini-submarines screw.

Americans were late, they were, Andrey Yuryevich, the second assistant to the captain of Georgy Kozmin told me. Then he suddenly realized that I was a journalist: No help can be unnecessary. It is indeed military fraternity

Meanwhile, Americans went onboard to have lunch. We need to feed our friends, a navigator said shyly. As for us, we have been living on coffee for two days without any food or sleep.

The entire city filled with enthusiasm once the minister headed for the scene of the accident. If he went there, everything is fine. We would not have gone to pose at the background of the dead, officers at the staff speculated. Lena Milashevskaya, who I visited while waiting for the minister, no longer recollected the forecast of her experienced father-in-law but was thinking how she was going to welcome her husband. If they dont let me in to the hospital thats OK! When I was pregnant, he would climb to my ward by the fire-escape to the third floor, so will I now! I will put on whites, put on mustaches but will get in. Now the wife of Captain Lieutenant Milashevsky was worried about foreigners saving the crew, He does not like them. He is such a racist, Slava, he respects only Russians, she said.

The staff from Razliv reported at about 4 pm that after four cables had been cut, British Scorpio broke down. The operation was dragging out one more time. A new report came a few minutes later saying the vehicle had been repaired and the last cable had been cut off, the bathyscaphe was ordered to make an emergency emersion. They have surfaced. Everyone is safe and sound. They got out of hatches on their own, a report followed a few minutes later.

Kamchatkas governor Mikhail Mashkovtsev was the first to come to the berth of the former naval station to meet the saved crew. He was nervously smoking Marlboro mint. When I came up to him, he brightened up: it was evident that the governor was afraid to get lost amidst organizers of the operations which he had in essence nothing to do with. Yes, I had some sleep, he confessed. Both yesterday and today. What was there else left for me to do? I was getting news about everything though the TV. Dont you believe me? Well, then from the journalists who were learning news from the telly and them would call me. Mr. Mashkovtev added that the president kept an eye on the operation and gave a sigh again inhaling the mint smoke. Of course, Vladimir Vladimirovich has not called me. But my assistants called asking how things were Im an atheist but I was praying these days. Not at church, but at home. As the Scripture says one must pray not for other people to see but in private. He also promised to reward all participants of the rescue relief. I have known it for a long time that a merit certificate from the governor is more important for many people than any material benefits. But if someone of the crew needs a flat, we will give it to them. We are now letting newly-elected building in Rybachye [village on the other shore of the bay].

The crew of Razliv appeared. It turned out that the defense minister came back on his own, without the crew of Priz. Going down the ship ladder Sergey Ivanov was no longer that strung-up as a few hours before when the ship had been leaving the berth. I would like to congratulate all Russians, the minister started solemnly with his hands behind his back. The Priz nuclear vehicle has been covered 200 meters of depth for three minutes of emergency emersion to surface today at 4.19 pm 30 seconds, Kamchatka time.

Someone asked what would happen to the crew, Are they going to be awarded or punished? Its a very silly question, Ivanov snapped without turning to the journalist, and carried on, British Scorpio worked six hours on end. The guidance was carried out by Russian underwater vehicles called Tiger [as a matter of fact, two Tigers were purchased in Britain by the Russian Defense Ministry in 2000 in the wake of the Kursk tragedy]. The largest cable that had to be cut off was, probably, poachers. Following the order, Mr. Ivanov said, the bathyscaphe was surfacing for a few minutes, and then the crew made their decision to blow the forebody of the vehicle, after which Priz finally surfaced. The crew opened the hatch on their own, they said they did not need medical aid and went onboard of Alagez rescue vessel, the minister made a pause and then added with a hesitation. Today was the toughest day, everyone showed their worth, including the British. Answering the question who made the decision to admit foreign rescuers to the region of the secret underwater radio-locating station, Mr. Ivanov said that the Naval Commander-in-Chief Office was in charge of everything.

It is symbolic that as soon as we lifted the vehicle the sun appeared in the sky and when we started off, killer whales swam aside, the minister concluded saying the crew would arrive on Alagez vessel at the harbor of the Bogorodskoye Lake in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky an hour and a half after him.

The submariners, in fact, were already landing from Mozoz missile ship by the Bodorodskoye Lake. There were six of them, the commander of the division, captain of the second rank Valery Lepetyukhin left on Alagez where his wife Svetlana works as a doctor. The submariners were dressed in sailor fatigues just like sailors on Moroz but they were easy to spot as they swaggered on the deck looking somewhere beyond.

Vyacheslav Milashevsky was the first to come ashore. He was really looking like a teenager, not quite a captain lieutenant. He wend down the ladder looking past the welcomers holding his hand by his head: it was hard to understand who he was saluting to.

I had some time to say hello to Vyacheslav from his wife and he thanked me, after which crew members were immediately taken by two ambulances to the hospital. The cars were passing past the sailors relatives who were standing by the road. Wives and mothers were crying trying to catch up with the mini-bus, but in vain. The entrance to the territory of the hospital was blocked by marines. Cars of the relatives were allowed to pass to the hospital only after the submarines had been put to wards. Members of the rescue team told the families that the crew had been starving the last day: they were running out of food, they had only a few biscuits left that they distributed for all.

Elena Milashevskaya is now afraid that her husband will be pronounced the culprit. My husband will be held responsible! You will see that neither commander-in-chief, nor any commanders will be answering for that Only he will because he is young and inexperienced! They will lay all the blame on him! It is his seventh emersion, though They have claws [manipulator] at the sub and it is a kind of mastership when sailors put on a bottle, take it by these claws without smashing it. He would practice it nights long. He told me, Lena, what if something happens to the sub? He smashed so many bottles first. But he learnt after all!

List of Survivors

Valery Lepetyukha, captain of the second rank and commander of detached division of emergency rescue service;

Vyacheslav Milashevsky, captain lieutenant and acting commander of the Priz AS-28 submersible;

Alexander Ivanov, senior lieutenant;

Sergey Belozerov, senior warrant officer;

Anatoly Popov, senior warrant officer and navigator of AS-28;

Alexander Uybin, warrant officer;

Gennady Bolonin, deputy chief designer of Lazurit Central Design Bureau.

Two Days Under and Above Water

August 6

9 a.m. (0.00 a.m., all times are in Kamchatka time, Moscow time is indicted in brackets) Attempts to tow the AS-28 to shallower water, another of underwater sonar communication session with the crew.

10:35 a.m. (1:35 a.m.) Air temperature in the vehicle rises to 10 degrees Celsius.

12:10 a.m. (3:10 a.m.) The AS-28 is towed.

6:22 p.m. (9:22 a.m.) UK Air Force plane carrying the Scorpio-45 rescue vessel lands at Elizo airport at Kamchatka.

6:39 p.m. (9:39 a.m.) A U.S. Air Force plane with Super Scorpio remotely operated vehicles arrives at Elizovo.

10:30 p.m. (1:30 p.m.) A meeting of Russian President Vladimir Putin with defense and law enforcement agencies is over in Moscow, after which Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov urgently departs for Kamchatka.

August 7

0:55 a.m. (3:55 pm, August 6 in Moscow) Another communication session with the bathyscaphes crew. The condition of sailors is satisfactory.

1:24 a.m. (4:24 p.m.) A first stage of the rescue operation starts in the Berezovaya Bay. The Navy loops cables under the Priz.

3:40 a.m. (6:40 p.m.) The KIL-27 vessel with British rescue equipment leaves Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky for the area of the operation.

8:14 a.m. (11:14 p.m.) Sergey Ivanov arrives in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky.

9:30 a.m. (0:30 a.m. August 7, Moscow time) The KIL-27 arrives to the site of the rescue operation, British specialists start installing equipment.

11:40 a.m. (2:40 a.m.) The crew is ordered to get ready for the emergency emersion by underwater sonar communication.

10:50 a.m. (1:50 a.m.) The crew begins lowering the Scorpio-45.

11:13 a.m. (2:13 a.m.) Cameras of Scorpion-45 record the Russian sub.

12:05 a.m. (3:05 a.m.) Scorpio-45 starts cutting away metal cables that were trapping the AS-28.

12:25 a.m. (3:25 a.m.) Scorpion-45 is surfaced for small repairs after which the rescue operation continues.

2:35 p.m. (5:35 a.m.) The last cable has been cut off. The AS-28 is fully freed from fishing nets.

4:23 p.m. (7:23 a.m.) The main ballast of the Russian sub is being blown.

4:26 p.m. (7:26 a.m.) The AS-28 surfaces. The submariners go onboard of Alagez salvage vessel.

10:00 p.m. (1:00 p.m.) The crew of AS-28 are taken to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky.

What Trapped Priz

The Shore-Based Listening System of Long-Range Detection of Underwater Vehicles has been developed at St. Petersburg Morfizpribor Central Research Institute in 60s under the code name of Agam unit. Doctor of Engineering Yakov Karlik was the projects chief engineer.

The system is a complex of low-frequency receive antennae (planar antenna arrays). Each 100x7.5 m. antenna contains 2,400 submarine detectors (two vertical rows with 10 items). Submarine detectors and a part of electronic data processing equipment are placed on a special supporting construction which ensures the towing of an antenna, its installation in the prearranged position (usually at the depth of 200 m., 15 m off the bottom, 25 km. offshore) and the surfacing. The antenna is kept at the bottom with the help of two anchors weighting 60 metric tons each. The supporting construction also holds two omni-directional submarine detectors that control the situation in the area of the antenna.

The data from Agam antenna is transmitted to shore-based posts by two SPEK-4 small capacity cables that also provide the listening system with electricity.

Agam complex is stationed along the coast of Kamchatka to control the movement of submarines (primarily American) in the Pacific Ocean. The system is also used for ocean research.

The information on the listening system of long-range detection of underwater vehicles first appeared in media in August 2000 when one of antenna sections of Agam, torn off by the storm, got drifted to the shore of Japan, where it was first taken for a Russian submarine. The section was later returned to Russia. American global submarine detection SOSUS (Sound Surveillance System) is Agams Western analogue which embraces virtually all the world ocean, unlike the Russian one.

The One That Saved Priz

Scorpio-45 remote-controlled underwater vehicle is owned by the British Defense Ministry and is given to the operation of James Fisher Rumic company. It was built in 1990 and is now stationed at Renfru base in Scotland. It is designed to be used when the work of a diver is too dangerous or obstructed due to the great depth. Its length is 2.75 m., height 1.8 m., width 1.8 m, weight 1.4 metric tons. The maximum dive depth is over 925 meters (restricted by the control cable), its carrying capacity is up to 100 kg. The maximum speed is 4 knots (reverse movement 3.25 knots, side 2.5 knots). The operation group is six people. The vehicle is equipped with six 250-Watt valves, three video cameras and two manipulators, one of which can be equipped with cutting tools. Scorpion-45 also has two sonars, a wire telephone, a radiation sensor and a sound locator. The vehicle can be used for the laying of the site of an accident with navigation beacons.

The vehicle and its control consol are easily transported by air. It is launched by hoists of mother-ship and a special A-shaped floating crane.

The vehicles cost is about £600,000 (some $1.1 million). More advanced vehicles of the next generation, like Super Scorpio, cost some $1.9 million.

Oleg Kashin, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky

All the Article in Russian as of Aug. 08, 2005

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