KIEV, September 2 (Itar-Tass) - Russian and Ukrainian experts have completed the first stage of an effort to retrieve the WWII Soviet Shchuka-class submarine, SHCH-216, which sank off the Crimean coast in 1944.
"Scientists have examined a WWII object lying at a depth of 53 metres for the first time in the history of Ukraine,” Sergei Levochkin, the Ukrainian president’s administration chief, told journalists on Monday, adding that the works had been carried out in close cooperation with Russian partners.
Russian and Ukrainian experts ended their first mission to the sunken WWII submarine on August 26. “Their mission took place on three Russian and several Ukrainian vessels on August 21-25,” Captain 2nd rank Nikolai Voskresensky, a representative of the Black Sea Fleet Information Department,” told Itar-Tass. He added that 80 percent of the submarine’s hull was seriously damaged and covered with fishing nets.
The Russian and Ukrainian experts determined the exact location of the submarine, assessed its condition and examined the seabed for mines and other possible obstacles to divers. They used multi-beam ultrasound scanners and two unmanned underwater craft to examine the wreckage.
It was established that the Shch-216 submarine was lying on the seabed at a depth of 52 metres, tilting 12 degrees to its right side. Its first and second compartments were badly damaged and the bow gun was lying nearby close to the vessel's right side. No mines or other explosives were found near the submarine.
The second Ukrainian-Russian mission to the sunken submarine is scheduled for mid-September. A KIL-25 vessel is expected to leave for the submarine’s wreck site on September 19. It will mark the area and install four sets of mooring equipment over the submarine’s hull for a Black Sea Fleet rescue vessel, the Apron, from where divers will descend to the sub. The Apron took part in examining the sunken Shch-204 and Shch-211 submarines in 1983 and 2003, respectively.
Employees of the Ukrainian Black Sea Underwater Research Centre found the submarine near Cape Tarkhankut off the Crimean coast in July this year. Early in August, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich instructed Prime Minister Nikolai Azarov and his presidential administration chief Sergei Levochkin to study the possibility of raising the boat, burying the remains of its crew and building a memorial to the fallen sailors. Yanukovich also suggested turning the sub into a naval museum as part of celebrations of the 70th anniversary of Ukraine’s liberation from fascist occupiers and the 70th anniversary of victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945.
Construction of the Shch-216 vessel began at the shipyards in Nikolayev, a town in Ukraine, in July 1939. It was launched in May 1940 and came into service with the Black Sea Fleet on June 22, 1941. The submarine made 14 combat sorties in which it spent a total of 299 days during WWII.