Seven Russian sailors trapped aboard a Russian mini-submarine for almost three days are back on the surface after a British undersea rescue vehicle severed the cables that had trapped the mini-sub. The sailors are reported to be in a satisfactory condition.
After climbing out of the Russian AS-28 submarine, the seven members of the crew were examined in the clinic on a naval ship. All of them are reported to be in satisfactory condition. The wife of the sub's commander said she was so happy she cried when she heard the news the men were rescued.
According to the Russian Vice Admiral Vladimir Pepelyaev, Deputy Director of Moscow Navy Headquarters, the vessel rose to the surface at 7:15 in the morning Moscow time. He said the crew opened the hatch themselves, exited the vessel and climbed aboard a speed boat.
The crewmen were forced to wait for nearly three days while rescuers raced to free them. As air supplies were running out the crew put on thermal suits to help them stand the frigid temperature on the ocean floor.
They were told to lie flat and breathe as lightly as possible to conserve oxygen. In sharp contrast to the disaster of the nuclear submarine Kursk in August 2000, when authorities refused to ask for foreign help right away and all 118 sailors onboard died, Russian military quickly appealed to the United States and Britain for assistance.
Before the British rescue vessel arrived at the scene, Russian ships had tried to tow the sub to shallower water where divers could reach it, but were unable to move it far enough. The British remote-controlled Super Scorpio eventually managed to cut away the cables that had trapped the mini submarine and it was able to come to the surface on its own Sunday afternoon.
Vladimir Pepelyaev, Deputy Director of Moscow Navy Headquarters thanked the British for their joint work and the help they gave in order to complete this operation within the time available - that is before the oxygen reserves ran out.
The United States had also flown underwater vehicles to Kamchatka, but the British vessel arrived at the scene first and the U.S. vessels never left the port. Russian President Vladimir Putin had no immediate public comment by on the mini-sub drama.
At least one opposition politician has questioned the Russian navy's performance saying he wants to know why they have not acquired underwater rescue vehicles.