Accessibility links

Russia Launches New Nuclear Submarine - 2001-12-05

Russian President Vladimir Putin is back in Moscow after attending the launching of the country's newest nuclear submarine. The launch comes at a troubled time for the Russian Navy.

The Gepard, which means cheetah in Russian, has been 10 years in the making. The Soviet navy began work on it in 1991, just months before the collapse of the Soviet Union.

But the half-built submarine sat in the Severodvinsk shipyard in the Russian far north for years because the Russian military had no money to finish it.

President Putin took control of the project in 1999, ordering the navy to find the money to finish work on the ship. It is the first submarine to be launched from the Severodvinsk shipyard in years, a big change from the Soviet era, when the shipyard built many vessels each year.

Speaking at the launching ceremony in Severodvinsk, Mr. Putin described it as an event of "national importance."

The Gepard's launch is rare good news for the Russian navy - and in particular its northern fleet.

On Saturday, the Russian president dismissed several high-ranking officers of the fleet after receiving a critical report about its leadership.

The report criticized the fleet's top officers for naval exercises they conducted in August of last year. It was during these exercises that explosions on the nuclear submarine Kursk sent the vessel to the bottom of the Barents Sea. All 118 people on board were killed.

The wreckage of the Kursk was raised in October and is now in port as investigators try to figure out what caused the explosions.