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Russian Nuclear Submarine Sinks in Barents Sea

At least two sailors are dead and seven are missing, after a Russian nuclear-powered submarine sank in the northwestern Barents Sea. Defense officials say one crew member has been rescued from the decommissioned submarine, which was being towed to a scrap yard when it sank.

Search and rescue teams continue looking for survivors of the skeleton crew, which was on board the aging submarine when it sank in the remote northern sea during a sudden storm.

A Defense Ministry spokesman says the submarine had been decommissioned in 1989, and was being towed to a facility where it was to be dismantled.

Spokesman Nikolai Deryabin says the vessel's nuclear reactor had been "brought to a secure state" before the sinking, and that there were no weapons on board.

The submarine was being towed by four giant floating hulls to a scrap yard in the naval town of Polarnye, when a fierce storm ripped the hulls from the vessel, causing it to sink.

The submarine dates from the early 1960's and is one of about 200 that have been decommissioned and are slowly being dismantled.

Most of the aging submarines are moored in the northwestern area of Russia near Norway. Western countries have provided Russia with financial assistance aimed at disposing of the submarines and their nuclear reactors, which have raised concerns as an environmental hazard.

The accident comes three years after the fully-operational Kursk nuclear submarine also sank in the Barents Sea, after an explosion on board during naval exercises. All 118 men on board were killed.

That accident highlighted continuing problems in Russia's Navy, including the secretive way that officials handled the aftermath of that incident.

At first, officials delayed announcing that an accident had occurred at all. Later, the government and President Vladimir Putin were heavily criticized for reacting too slowly to the disaster.

Navy officers also insisted that the Kursk sank because of a collision with a foreign submarine, until an official investigation determined that the cause of the sinking was due to a faulty torpedo.

Ultimately, the Kursk was recovered from the sea bottom, and towed into port, where it also is slowly being scrapped.