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Nerpa accident will not harm cooperation with India - Medvedev

04.12.2008 Source: en.rian.ru

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Thursday that a recent accident on board a Russian nuclear submarine was caused by human error and would not affect military-technical cooperation with India.

India has reportedly paid $650 million for a 10-year lease of the 12,000-ton Nerpa nuclear attack submarine. Indian media have reported that the construction of the vessel was partially financed by the country's government.

The accident occurred late on November 8 while the Nerpa submarine was undergoing sea trials in the Sea of Japan. Three sailors and 17 shipyard workers died in the accident. There were 208 people, 81 of them sailors, on board the vessel at the time.

"There is no negative impact on our relations, because unfortunately, this tragic accident, which is now under investigation, according to the information that we have at present, was a result of the so-called human factor and it does not characterize the current state of this project or of this nuclear submarine," Medvedev told reporters on the eve of his visit to India.

Russian investigators earlier said a crew member on the Nerpa had been charged with "criminally negligent homicide" for allegedly mishandling a temperature sensor on board the submarine that caused the tragedy by releasing deadly Freon gas.

Medvedev also reaffirmed Russia's readiness to expand military-technical cooperation with India in all spheres. India is one of the main buyers of Russian weaponry, with contracts including the delivery of Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier with at least 16 MiG-29K Fulcrum-D carrier fighters, the Smerch MLRS, and licensed production of T-90 tanks in India.

Russia signed in March a contract with the Indian Defense Ministry to upgrade around 70 MiG-29 fighters, in service since the 1980s, and agreed to develop a fifth-generation fighter together with India.

Russia and India jointly developed the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile, whose sea-based and land-based versions have been successfully tested and put into service with the Indian army and navy.

Medvedev said on Thursday that Russia and India could export BrahMos missiles to third countries while strictly observing international agreements on arms exports and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.

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