THE FORMER COMMANDER OF THE NORTHERN FLEET IS A CRIMINAL

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A hearing of a criminal case regarding the shipwreck of the K-159 nuclear submarine of the Northern Fleet, which has sank almost a year ago, finished. The military court of the Northern Fleet put Admiral Gennady Suchkov, former commander of the Northern Fleet, on probation for four years on May 18. The admiral was charged with negligence, which entailed servicemen’s death.

As is known, the K-159 sank in the Barents Sea near the island of Kildin on August 30, 2003. The crew consisted of ten people; one serviceman survived. The Northern Fleet intended to scrap the submarine. Towage of the submarine to docks began on August 28. The submarine was suspended on four pontoons. A strong storm tore off the pontoons in the Barents Sea on August 30.

The criminal case started right after that tragic incident. Admiral Gennady Suchkov was suspended. The hearing began on January 12. Materials of the criminal case consist of 29 volumes. The court questioned 103 people, including Admiral Kuroyedov, Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, senior lieutenant Maxim Tsybulsky (the person who survived after the shipwreck) and representatives of the command of the Northern Fleet. Commander Sergei Zhemchuzhnov, commander of the submarine unit stationed in Gremikha (the Murmansk region) witnessed in court. He commanded the towage of the submarine to the Nerpa plant. Investigation of a criminal case against him was prolonged to June 30. Seven scientists attended court hearings as experts. The court also studied technical documentation.

It should be noted that Suchkov did not plead guilty during the investigation. In the meantime, Admiral Kuroyedov stated that the former commander of the Northern Fleet was guilty of the shipwreck. This criminal case has many interesting details. There are rumors that Kuroyedov asked Suchkov to acknowledge his guilt. In exchange, he promised to rehabilitate and promote him to the Central Staff of the Navy after the hearing. However, Suchkov did not give up. He stated that he was not guilty, and many officers supported him. Suchkov commented on the verdict as follows: “We believed that the investigation would be objective. Unfortunately, this has not happened.” The admiral noted that as the commander of the Northern Fleet he was responsible for the tragedy. At the same time, he does not consider himself as being guilty from the point of view of the Crime Code. Suchkov noted that some forces exerted pressure on him during the investigation. He is sure that the prosecutor’s office fulfilled someone’s orders.

Officers of the Northern Fleet and veterans were disappointed by the verdict. Commander Valery Losinets stated on behalf of seamen that this verdict “is a political order”. Murmansk Governor Yury Yevdokimov also criticized the court for its decision in an interview with Interfax.

He said: “I am sure that our combat will continue. I intend to support Suchkov.”

Suchkov’s defense intends to submit an appeal to the military collegium of the Supreme Court. Lawyer AAlexander Shadrin stated that “a short complaint will be sent to the collegium today”.

In the meantime, colonel Igor Murashkin, aide to the military prosecutor-general, is satisfied with the verdict. He stated: “I’d like to note that the court’s conclusions are based on a scrupulous analysis of evidence. We respect the court decision and will continue working until the verdict comes into force.”

Lawyer Svetlana belova, a representative of the victims’ relatives, stated that the majority of the victims’ relatives disagree with the verdict. She said: “Nine people perished, and probation is a very light punishment.” Belova did not rule out that she will try to challenge this verdict. The mother of Yury Zhdan, who had perished last year, does not agree with the lawyer. She does not consider Suchkov as a person guilty of her son’s death. She said: “I think that the results of an expert examination are false. I am sure that he perished because rescue services did not help him.” She also submitted a complaint about the court decision.

In other words, there are different points of view on the verdict. It should be noted that it’s not the first precedent of accusing commander of their subordinates’ death. A regiment commander was convicted for the crash of the Mi-26 helicopter in Khankala in August 2002. At the same time, it is evident that commanders’ guilt is indirect. Such tragic incidents happen in the Army very often owing to low financing of the Armed Forces. The analysis of open information shows that the Navy is the leader in the structure of emergency situations in the Army. The KUrsk disaster, scandals in the Black Sea Fleet, the shipwreck of the K-159, failure to launch strategic missiles during the Security-2004 exercise… Admiral Suchkov intends to meet with Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov in order to tell him about the situation in the Russian Navy.

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