Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Fire, injuries reported aboard Russian cruiser

Kiev/Moscow - A fire aboard the flagship of Russia's Black Sea fleet injured seven sailors before the blaze was brought under control, the Interfax news agency reported Wednesday. But officials in Moscow denied service personnel had been harmed in the September 7 incident, saying "there was only a little smoke."

Interfax citing "competent naval sources" reported the fire broke out aboard the missile cruiser Moscow while it was tied up at a military wharf in the Ukrainian port Sevastopol.

Russia leases a section of the Crimean peninsula port from Ukraine as the home base for its Black Sea fleet.

Ambulances later removed injured personnel from the vessel, and smoke was coming out of windows and hull gaps in the warship's central section, witnesses told Interfax.

Seven internal compartments were damaged by smoke or water before the fire was extinguished, according to the Ukrainian news report.

"Those reports do not match the truth," said Andrei Krylov, a Russian navy spokesman. "There was a bit of smoke...but everything aboard the cruisier is fine...and no one was hurt."

The Moscow was built in 1983 as a Soviet warship carrying cruise missiles designed to attack NATO aircraft carriers.

The ship and crew participated in the South Ossetia War in August 2008, landing Russian Marines on Georgia's Black Sea coast, and acting as a command and control vessel during sea battles destroying Georgia's entire navy.

Russia's navy in recent years has been hit with a series of embarassing accidents. The most deadly were a torpedo failure in 2000 aboard a missile submarine killing 118 navy personnel, and a fire in 2008 aboard an attack submarine killing three service personnel and 17 civilians.

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