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Fire Aboard Sub? Just a Test, Soviets Say

From Reuters

Norway said Sunday that a fire had broken out aboard a Soviet nuclear-powered submarine, but Norwegian radio quoted a Soviet official as saying the reported blaze was part of a military exercise.

It was the third incident involving Moscow’s underwater fleet in the area in four months.

The Oslo Defense Ministry said a Norwegian vessel had spotted the Soviet Alpha-class attack submarine on the surface, smoke billowing from its conning tower and under tow by a Soviet vessel Sunday morning.

Part of Exercise

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But the Moscow correspondent of Norwegian radio NRK quoted a Soviet official as saying that the reported fire on board the submarine, which was off northern Norway, was part of a military exercise and that there had been no accident.

NRK Moscow correspondent Arnt Stefansen said he had been given the information by a spokesman at the headquarters of the Sea Rescue Center in Moscow. Quoting the spokesman verbatim, Stefansen said in a radio report:

“A certain amount of smoke was created in the area, in connection with a military exercise. . . . It is a misunderstanding that there has been an accident.”

The Soviet spokesman, identified by Stefansen as Capt. Alexander Dilitsin, said the submarine was on its way to port on the Kola Peninsula under its own power and that the situation on board was normal.

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No Visible Damage

Norwegian television showed film taken from a plane flying over the submarine. There was no smoke or visible damage and the vessel was moving quickly under its own power on the surface. The sea was calm and the weather clear.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Thorvald Stoltenberg seemed skeptical about the Soviet claim that no accident had occurred and was angry that Oslo had not been warned.

“It didn’t seem that way to us,” he told state television.

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“I am bound to say that, whether it was an exercise or not, it would have been useful to inform us,” he said after summoning Moscow’s ambassador to protest about the lack of a warning.

Soviet Ambassador Alexander Teterin said he had no information about the incident.

There have been two major accidents involving Soviet submarines off Norway in the last four months.

In June, a Soviet Echo 2-class nuclear-powered submarine caught fire off Norway. Oslo complained that Moscow had failed to inform it of the accident.

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In April, a Soviet Mike-class nuclear submarine caught fire and sank in the Norwegian sea, killing 42 crew members.


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