Defense Minister: Crew of K-159 submarine not at fault

The crew of K-159, the nuclear submarine lost in the Barents Sea, were not at fault in what happened. The statement came from Sergei Ivanov, the Russian defense minister, in a meeting with journalists yesterday in Severomorsk and reported by Vesti. He dismissed as 'rot' all rumors that the crew might have been at fault.

Ivanov's meeting with reporters took place after he, the command staff of the Northern Fleet and Yury Evdokimov, governor of Murmansk Region, met with relatives of the dead sailors. The minister said: 'This was a very difficult meeting, especially for the relatives.' Ivanov said wives of the dead brought up the rumors, which have spread in Gremikh, where K-159 was based, of the possible culpability of the crew. It was one of the major matters discussed, the minister said. Ivanov dismissed the rumors as false. He also said he was seeking the release to the relatives of official reports on the deaths, including those whose bodies have not yet been found.

Specifically, the minister said, Senior Lieutenant Sokolov, one of those lost, was carrying documents for his wife's application for Russian citizenship. 'She is Ukrainian, and they had adopted children. I will insist that she get Russian citizenship without any bureaucratic delays,' Ivanov declared. He also stressed that the relatives of the deceased men will 'receive material help in full.' Murmansk Gov. Evdokimov has already allocated USD 4,000 to help the families of the lost crew of submarine K-159.

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