MOSCOW, November 24. /TASS/. A group of Russian Navy experts has departed from St. Petersburg to Argentina aboard a military cargo aircraft in order to participate in the ongoing operation to search for the San Juan submarine, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement on Friday.
"A group of Russian Navy experts has departed from Pulkovo airport (St. Petersburg) to Argentina aboard an Antonov An-128 military cargo aircraft in order to participate in the operation to search for the San Juan submarine. The group comprises a commander and operators of the Pantera Plus unmanned submersible, as well as deep divers and a diving doctor," the statement reads.
The Russian Defense Ministry added that the group of Russian military rescue workers was headed by Captain 1st rank Sergei Bashmakov, the chief of the Scientific Research Institute for rescuing and underwater technologies at the Russian Navy’s Training and Scientific Center.
"All Russian experts have a vast experience in conducting search and rescue operations. Divers and operators of the Pantera Plus unmanned submersible have been training their skills during naval exercises, carrying out simulated rescue operations aimed at providing assistance to a submarine in distress, lying on the seabed in various parts of the sea and climate zones," the statement adds.
The Russian Defense Ministry earlier reported that upon the instruction from President Vladimir Putin, Defense Minister Army General Sergey Shoigu had ordered to dispatch a group of experts from the Navy’s 328th expedition search and rescue unit to Argentina along with the Pantera Plus unmanned submersible, as well as the Russian Navy’s Yantar oceanographic research vessel.
Contact with the San Juan diesel-electric submarine, carrying 44 crew members, was lost on November 15. The Argentine Navy launched an intensive search operation on November 16. On Wednesday, Navy spokesman Enrique Balbi said the operation was at "a critical stage" as the submarine would soon be reaching the limits of its air supply.
According to Argentina’s Foreign Ministry, a total of 12 countries have already provided their assistance, including Germany, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Spain, the United States, France, Norway, Peru, the United Kingdom and Uruguay. On Wednesday, Russia also offered its assistance in the search operation.