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Report: Russia Nuclear Sub Disabled

September 10, 1999

MOSCOW (AP) _ Thieves disabled a nuclear submarine in Russia’s Northern Fleet by pilfering vital equipment, a newspaper reported Friday.

The Pantera nuclear-powered submarine, based near the city of Murmansk on the Kola Peninsula, was stripped of a filtration powder needed to clean air inside its hull, said the business daily Kommersant.

The sub’s crew would have suffocated if the theft hadn’t been discovered, the newspaper reported. ``The crew was really lucky,″ it said.

One of the submarine’s officers and an accomplice allegedly emptied 59 filtration cartridges of the powder, which contains the precious metal palladium, and replaced it with ordinary coal.

The suspects allegedly sold the powder for $9,000, and the damage to the submarine was estimated at $85,600, Kommersant said.

The swap was accidentally discovered by a newly-appointed officer, and the suspected thief, who had already been transferred to another sub, was arrested, Kommersant said.

According to the report, the accomplice was still on the run. Neither suspect was identified in the report.

Thefts of weapons and valuable equipment have become common in the demoralized and underfunded Russian military.

Last year, a naval officer stole and sold 58 gauges containing precious metals from a nuclear submarine of the Northern Fleet, and earlier this year a sailor stole crucial equipment controlling the nuclear reactor aboard another of the fleet’s submarines.

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