Russian Navy

Russian Submariners Gather Signatures for SSN Nerpa Crew

Russian Submariners Gather Signatures for SSN Nerpa Crew 22.08.2012
Photo: SSN Nerpa.
St. Petersburg Submariners' Club launches a sign-in campaign to collect signatures under an open letter supporting crewmembers of nuclear submarine Nerpa. The letter is addressed to President Vladimir Putin as the Russian Armed Forces Supreme Commander. Anyone not accepting the official version of the tragedy may sign in the letter. Recall that it is Nerpa's ex-commanding officer Capt 1 Rank Dmitry Lavrentiev and bilge engineer Petty Officer Dmitry Grobov who are officially considered guilty of the accident.

The letter was written by widely known navy-oriented novelist Alexander Pokrovsky whose views on the Nerpa case were clearly put in numerous press reports and on his personal website As for Pokrovsky, the reason of casualties onboard SSN Nerpa in Nov 2008 was offgrade composition of freon gas filled in the submarine's fire-smothering system. And that is not commanding officer and far less bilge engineer who are to be accused, but those who permitted the sub's firefighting system to be filled with toxic agent.

"We are ready to send the letter and a sample of subscription list to anyone who desire to support crew of Nerpa, as well as to any organization seeing proper to either sign or submit a similar letter to the Russian president", says Capt 1 Rank Igor Kurdin, chairman of the St. Petersburg Submariners' Club. He also advises to contact the club on

According to Kurdin, first signature under the Pokrovsky's letter was put by Warrant Officer (retired) Nikolai Ivanov, former submariner and shipbuilder of Admiralteyskie Verfi shipyard who had set up initiative group in support of the Nerpa's crew.

The fact indicating that the accused submariners Dmitry Lavrentiev and Dmitry Grobov are supported by large number of Russian people is a backup group recently established on online social network Odnoklassniki. Through 11 days, over 1,600 users joined the group. As for Igor Kurdin, they are ready to sign in the letter of Alexander Pokrovsky even today.

Recall that one week ago submariners' community of the Amur Shipyard also addressed similar letter to the president. On Aug 17, Pacific Fleet Court Martial convened again and failed to form a jury for the criminal case on the accident happened to nuclear-powered submarine Nerpa.

The next court session was set on Sept 25. It will be held behind closed doors as well.

Central Navy Portal posts below the full text of the letter addressed by Alexander Pokrovsky to president Putin:

To the President of the Russian Federation and the Supreme Commander of the Russian Armed Forces Vladimir V. Putin.

Sir Supreme Commander! Esteemed Vladimir Vladimirovich!

Almost 4 years ago a tragedy happened to Russian nuclear-powered submarine Nerpa.

On November 8, 2008 an accident occurred in the nuclear-powered attack submarine K-152 (Nerpa, Pacific Fleet) during the shipyard sea trials. Freon gas 114V2 of the onboard fire-smothering system accidentally entered 2-nd compartment. As a result, 20 members of crew and trial team died.

Accusations were presented to the submarine commanding officer Guards Captain 1 Rank Dmitry Lavrentiev and Petty Officer 2 Class Dmitry Grobov. Although a jury court acquitted both of them, military collegium of the Russian Supreme Court canceled the acquittal on May 4, 2012. Now, the accused submariners are waiting for the next trial.

Mr. President, this unprecedented duel between honor and disgrace has been going on for 4 years. It was found out during investigation that the cause of deaths onboard Nerpa was toxic agent. Instead of relatively safe freon 114V2, the submarine's fire-smothering system was filled with toxic carbon dichloride by two thirds. That follows from the medico-legal investigation materials. That is obvious to everyone except for those who inquired into the tragedy. One should search for guilty persons neither at sea nor in the sub but ashore. They are those who purchased poison and ordered to fill the submarine with it.

SSN Nerpa had successfully passed all trials under command of Capt 1 Rank D. Lavrentiev and was leased to Indian Navy. The crew and trial team under Lavrentiev's direction not only eliminated all defects but behaved manfully in the critical situation, having prevented wreckage of the submarine and death of the whole crew.

Twenty men died. That is the price for design defects, under-financing, frustrations of contract deadlines, software errors in the Molibden system, and violations in equipment measurement procedures done during construction and tests of SSN Nerpa. All those problems were saddled on the shoulders of the crew and trial team, and finally happened to be on shoulders of a single man, the submarine commanding officer Guards Captain 1 Rank Dmitry Lavrentiev.

That was he who being under the not-to-leave recognizance was sent at sea for the submarine tests again and again.

That was he who was called in for endless questionings between the submarine trial rounds.

And right after the sub was handed over to Indian Navy and Lavrentiev was no more in need, the trial hearing was instantly set implying Lavrentiev as the main accused person.

Indian partners were drawn in this conflict as well. Before their eyes, the respected naval officer turned into a criminal right after he had properly done his work for his country, i.e. trained Indian crew and handed over the submarine to India.

Representatives of Indian Navy sent a letter to Russian Navy command asking to leave Captain 1 Rank Lavrentiev on the post of chief instructor on Nerpa (INS Chakra) for the 5-year long period. They imagine only him on this post.

Mr. President, the entire naval community submariners, mariners, staff employees, coastal servicemen, officers, sailors, and me poor novelist ask you to assess what happens. To our opinion, such attitude to a man, an officer, a commander, a seaman, a patriot is by no means acceptable.

Russia and personally you Mr. President must guarantee not only commonly known compliance with the Constitution but give another guarantee protection of honor and dignity.

Russian officers must be sure that their work for the good of the country will be always appreciated, and a human in Russia will never be treated as a consumable material and won't be thrown into a dustbin when no more in need.

Alexander M. Pokrovsky - writer, officer, submariner

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