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VLADIVOSTOK, April 29 (Itar-Tass) - The Pacific Fleet Military Court on Monday acquitted the defendants in the Nerpa submarine accident case - former commander of the submarine Dmitry Lavrentyev and crewman Dmitry Grobov. The acquittal followed the verdict of the jury, which on April 26 unanimously found the defendants not guilty. The jurors concluded that the guilt of Lavrentyev and Grobov was not proved during the trial.
Representative of the prosecution Feliks Mamot told Itar-Tass that the Prosecutor’s Office intends to appeal the acquittal. According to the prosecution, for various reasons the jury panel was unable to properly understand the circumstances of the criminal case. In addition, the Prosecutor’s Office believes that the decision of the jury was influenced by “the campaign in defence of the accused, based on false arguments and facts spinning that was launched by the lawyers in some media.” “With this in view, the non-guilty verdict will be appealed by the public prosecution,” Mamot said.
The aggrieved persons - relatives of those killed in the submarine accident, were also dissatisfied with the verdict. According to Tamara Fishich, the widow of engineer Vladimir Fishich, “the court has again failed to name those responsible for the tragedy that claimed the lives of 20 people.”
The defence lawyers for their part expressed satisfaction with the verdict. Lawyer Sergei Bondar said that the “jurors’ decision on non-guilty verdict to the defendants this time was made unanimously, which means that the evidence submitted by the defence was irrefutable.”
The former commander of the submarine, Dmitry Lavrentyev, was accused of abuse of authority, which “caused the death of two or more persons through negligence.” The investigation charged the commander of the Nerpa submarine with abuse of power that caused death by negligence of two or more persons. According to a version of the prosecution, Lavrentyev failed to ensure training of the sub crewmembers in working with the new equipment. They also did not have training for actions in emergency situations ahead of the submarine’s sea trials. \
The investigation says that Dmitry Grobov is directly responsible for the accident. According to the case files, he, being on duty, out of “boredom” pressed the buttons that activated the fire suppression system. He was charged under the RF Criminal Code articles “Causing death by negligence of two or more persons as a result of improper execution of professional duties” and “infliction of grievous bodily harm by negligence due to improper execution of professional duties.” He pleaded not guilty.
On November 8, 2008 during contractor’s sea trials in the Sea of ··Japan there was an unauthorised activation of the automated fire extinguishing system on the Nerpa submarine that had not yet been adopted for service by the Russian Navy. As a result, 20 people were killed and another 38 got various degrees of poisoning from exposure to Freon and tetrachlorethylene. There were a total of 208 people aboard the submarine at that time. The fatalities included 17 civilians (members of the commissioning team of the manufacturer) and three military servicemen. The deaths and injuries were caused by an unsanctioned release of fire suppressant gas inside the submarine. The gas caused victims to die of asphyxiation or suffer frostbite in their lungs. The incident was the worst Russian submarine disaster since the Kursk sank in 2000. Three of the dead were military personnel and the rest were civilians from the Vostok, Zvezda, Era and Amur shipbuilding yards who were members of the acceptance team.
This is the second trial in the case. The first was completed in 2011 with acquittal of the defendants based of the jury verdict. On October 14, 2011, based on the jury’s verdict the court acquitted both defendants - Commander of the submarine Dmitry Lavrentyev and crewman of the submarine Dmitry Grobov. The jurors arrived at the conclusion that the investigation failed to prove that the fire extinguishing system was activated directly as a result of the “human factor.”
On May 3, 2012, the Military Collegium of the Russian Supreme Court granted the appeal of the Military Prosecutor’s Office of the RF Pacific Fleet, overturned the judgement of acquittal and submitted the case for reconsideration, but only by the end of the year the jury panel was formed and the consideration of the case on the merits began. Only in December 2012 the court could start the case consideration on the merits. All the court meetings were held behind closed doors.