Catastrophe of K-219 Submarine: Secret Document of the Soviet Union Communist Party

Could it be a diversion?
"Bellona" ecological NGO received an interesting document from the US National Security Archive. Its only copy is dated as October 6, 1986. On that day Russian atomic-powered K-219 submarine of project 667a sank ( published several stories on the submarine catastrophe).
The document is a shorthand report of the Communist Party Politbureau meeting devoted to the catastrophe.
The reforms in the USSR, perestroika and glasnost were about to be started at that time. The country leader Michael Gorbachev worked on the proposals for nuclear disarmament.
The issue Gorbachev raised at the meeting beginning was: "There is no information whether the submarine operating were destroyed after the crew left". Politbureau members Sokolov and Dobrynin replied that not all the devices had been destroyed because at first there was a hope to save the submarine, and then it suddenly sank. After Admiral Chernavin’s report Gorbachev pointed at this issue again: "Americans observed the rescue operation. The question arises whether they can lift our submarine up to the surface and information of what kind they will obtain in this case?" Navy Commander stilled Gorbachev's concerns: "Americans could be interested in the front part of the submarine, especially in the reactor construction. But they can find nothing new there: the submarine was constructed long time ago. However, its punched card can be of interest for them".
K-219 is an atomic-powered submarine of the second generation. This submarine started working for Russian Northern Military Fleet in 1971. Its punched cards could contain the program of the missile system operation or information on military communication systems.
 Gorbachev continued demonstrating his vigilance: "Why haven't the punched cards been taken from the submarine?" The Admiral explained: "They are usually kept in a special safe. There is no information where they are now". Gorbachev asked how the captain of the submarine was characterized. Chernavin said the captain had perfect references. He added the possible means to prevent Americans from getting the punched cards were discussed, such as locating several military ships in the accident area. "To prevent Americans from lifting the submarine we should announce that we are elaborating a set of organizational and technical measures regarding further actions because of the event that took place", - Gorbachev summarized. Probably everybody pretended to understand his long word construction.

Radioactivity "will not have dangerous scale".

That year of 1986 Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe took place. Perestroika and glasnost were about to be started. Therefore it was necessary to discuss the information policy for this accident, and this was done at the very beginning of the meeting, even before Admiral Chernavin’s report. By that time the USSR had already reported the news about the accident. "Our quick move to give the information about the submarine accident brought positive results",- Gorbachev was satisfied. "President Reagan thanked us for the information. Cole (the US administration official) said it was very important that the world could hear the bad news from the USSR first, and not from other sources such as news agencies. "As for detailed information on the submarine catastrophe, it could be expedient to did as last time for Chernobyl tragedy – to inform Americans, International Agency for Atomic Energy  and TASS (the state news agency of the Soviet Union). In addition, the leaders of the socialist countries should be informed about the accident".
"It is necessary to say again in the announcement of the accident that specialists came to the conclusion: nuclear explosion cannot take place in the sunk submarine".Then Gorbachev put forward a radical idea: "It can be reported that specialist believe there may be radioactivity spreading from the submarine at the big depth in a course of time".
 Politbureau member Anderi Gromyko offered to smooth out the statement: "It should be added: "Radioactivity will not have dangerous scale". There was no glasnost yet, and Gorbachev gave up: "Perhaps the statement should be more general: "Specialist examine the consequences of the submarine catastrophe". "This is better",- Politbureau member Nikolai Ryzhkov immediately agreed. "Also, the information about the submarine accident must be given to TASS so that the people of the country could know this",- Gromyko added. It was the time when public relations only started appearing in the country. "Yes, such information should be announced on TV and radio urgently, even before the evening", - Gorbachev summarized.

History Repeats Itself.

After Navy Commander's report Politbureau passed a resolution, and the meeting was close to the end. Certainly we gave only the most important information from the meeting, some details were omitted, such as the figures from Admiral Chernavin’s report and its commonplace phrases such as "it is necessary to investigate the cause of the accident objectively". Some meeting participants repeated the same idea, which was omitted in this story, and the order of the phrases was  changed as well. But all the important information was preserved for this story.
Books were written about K-219 catastrophe, and Americans produced the movie about it. But the cause of the accident is still unknown. The interesting point about the Polibureau meeting shorthand report is can also have the headline: 2000, Krasnodar Region, Sochi, Kursk submarine catastrophe. Or: Porto-Rotondo, Sardinia, 2003 – K-159 Submarine Sinking. When Kursk submarine sank, President Putin did not cancel his holiday in Sochi. He agreed to accept the assistance from Americans only late at night of August 16, after a phone conversation with President Clinton. Meanwhile, Kursk sank on August 12, and SOS signals from inside this submarine were heard until August 14, some sources say. When K-159 sank in the Barents Sea, President Putin had a meeting with  Italian Prime-Minister Silvio Berluskoni aboard "Moscow" missile cruiser in Porto-Rotondo. After the news about the accident there was a meeting aboard the cruiser resembling the Politbureau meeting we cited above.  The participants of the meetings President Putin chaired were different, but their conclusion were the same: the causes of the accidents are unknown, the measures should be made not to let Americans approach the submarine (the situation with Kursk), the people of the country should be soothed. Much progress was made  in the last point. The authorities lost the control over the information flow in the end of August, the first several days of Kursk submarine tragedy. However, soon everything was settled. The control over the information during the operation on the submarine lifting was especially strong.
In the fall of 2001 the lifting operation was in a full swing. There was a state press-center in Murmansk controlled by President's aide Sergei Yastrzhembski. For that time Bellona NGO planned to conduct a press conference in Murmansk on the topic: "Atomic Arctic: Problems and Solutions". Nothing extraordinary was planned by Bellona for the conference. However, it somehow contradicted Mr. Yastrzhembsky’s  plans. On the day and at the time of "Bellona"'s press-conference Yastrzhembsky brought a group of local ecologists to say in his press center that the atomic-powered objects in Kolski Peninsula are safe. Moreover, for this time a special ship was prepared to take a group of journalists to the area where Kursk sank.
Nevertheless, Bellona's press-conference was successful. Such efforts of the authorities made us smile. Even Communist Party Politbureau did not invent such methods. There was no need in them because there was no glasnost, the information flows were under the control of the Party. Today the authorities have the need in such actions. There is no principal distinction from the Communist period. Decisions are being made what kind of information can be given. Documents are made secret. Meanwhile, submarines continue sinking.

Igor Kudrik, Rashid Alimov, "Bellona-web"

Author`s name Petr Ernilin