In the course of a little over a month, several catastrophes have befallen Russia's military complex.
First, the deep sea spy submarine Losharik caught fire in July, killing many senior naval officers:
On July 1, 14 Russian sailors—most of them senior officers with ranks equivalent to captain, commander, or lieutenant commander in the US Navy—died in an accident aboard a small nuclear-powered submarine designed for operations near or on the sea floor. The submarine Losharik (named after a Russian children's book character who is a horse made of juggling balls) was operating in the Barents Sea when the accident took place.
According to a Russian Navy statement published by TASS, the 14 "died in Russian territorial waters as a result of inhaling combustion products aboard a research submersible vehicle designated for studying the seafloor and the bottom of the World Ocean in the interests of the Russian Navy after a fire broke out during bathymetric measurements." The officers died while combating the fire.Then, a week ago an ammunition depot in eastern Siberia was rocked by explosions, which were followed by more explosions days later:
Two new explosions ripped through an ammunition depot at a Russian military facility in eastern Siberia on Friday, injuring eight people, according to state-run news agency TASS. A fire also broke out at the storage depot, located near the city of Achinsk.
TASS reported that the Russian Defense Ministry said lightning was the cause of the explosion and that the nearby village of Kamenka was being evacuated.
The incident comes four days after deadly explosions and a subsequent fire swept through the same ammo facility, forcing thousands of nearby residents to evacuate.
One person was killed and 13 others injured during Monday’s explosions, according to local reports. Russia’s Defense Ministry on Tuesday said "human error" was a possible cause for the explosions.Now, a small nuclear reactor that likely was part of the secret Russian effort to power a new- era cruise missile has exploded:
American intelligence officials are racing to understand a mysterious explosion that released radiation off the coast of northern Russia last week, apparently during the test of a new type of nuclear-propelled cruise missile hailed by President Vladimir V. Putin as the centerpiece of Moscow’s arms race with the United States.
American officials have said nothing publicly about the blast on Thursday, possibly one of the worst nuclear accidents in the region since Chernobyl, although apparently on a far smaller scale, with at least seven people, including scientists, confirmed dead. But the Russian government’s slow and secretive response has set off anxiety in nearby cities and towns — and attracted the attention of analysts in Washington and Europe who believe the explosion may offer a glimpse of technological weaknesses in Russia’s new arms program.
Thursday’s accident happened offshore of the Nenoksa Missile Test Site and was followed by what nearby local officials initially reported was a spike in radiation in the atmosphere.
The causes are likely a combination of human and technological errors, which gives us little comfort.Late Sunday night, officials at a research institute that had employed five of the scientists who died confirmed for the first time that a small nuclear reactor had exploded during an experiment in the White Sea, and that the authorities were investigating the cause.
As it was once said, Russia is basically a gas station with nuclear weapons, and it's now appearing that the gas station attendants aren't particularly competent.
(Photo: Russian ammo depot explosion, via The Independent)