Russian Navy's reconnaissance ship Liman of the Black Sea fleet sails in the Bosphorus, on its way to the Mediterranean Sea, in Istanbul, Oct. 21, 2016.Reuters
On April 27, the Russian Navy ship called “The Liman” collided with the Ashot-7 cargo vessel 40 km from the Bosphorus Strait. Russia’s Defense Ministry reports that the civilian vessel breached the right side of The Liman and it sank rapidly. All 78 crewmembers were saved by a nearby Turkish ship.
There was heavy fog at the time of the accident. However, experts believe this doesn’t justify the sailor's actions.
"During fog, when a ship enters the Strait is must have a reinforced watch. Sailors with machine guns must stand on deck protecting the vessel from saboteurs and the captain must be sitting in the wheelhouse, personally following the geo-locators, which show the surrounding vessels," said third-rank reserve captain and military analyst from the Izvestia daily Dmitry Litovkin.
Rescued Russian sailors, with the livestock vessel Youzarsif H. in the background, are seen on a boat after their ship sank off Turkey's Black Sea coast in Istanbul, April 27, 2017. / Photo: Reuters
In his words, fog does not influence the devices and if the investigation confirms The Liman captain's was at fault, he may be looking down the barrel of a jail sentence. Also, during the investigation the second vessel will be secured and anchored at a Turkish port.
"Its logs, monograms, and readings will be taken away. Since this ship belongs to a different state, an international court will take on the case, while Russia will demand compensation for The Liman," explained former Supreme Commander of the Black Sea Fleet and First Deputy Naval Supreme Commander Retired Admiral Igor Kasatonov.
The Liman is a middle-sized reconnaissance ship and, in Litovkin's words, its function is to intercept radio and telephone conversations, as well as information from foreign satellites.
"Secret Russian equipment was located on the deck and in the first hour after the incident it could have been taken by Turkish divers," notes the expert.
A Turkish coastal safety boat and an ambulance are seen at the Bosphorus Command headquarters following a resque operation in the Black Sea, in Istanbul, April 27, 2017. / Photo: Reuters
According to the Vzglyad publication, the ship was equipped with the Don radar system, the Bronza hydro-acoustic system, and a series of radio reconnaissance devices. It did not have any large missile systems, only the Igla portable air defense system.
However, Kasatonov believes that it is too early to speak about foreign sabotage theories and the possible theft of Russia's secret equipment.
"For now there is no proof and therefore no case. The Russian Naval Command placed a guard unit on the site of the crash. A ship with hydro-acoustic devices is enough to understand what is going on at the bottom of the sea," added Kasatonov.
For the last year and a half the ship had been participating in the Russian campaign in Syria. It observed the movements of Islamic State militants and listened in on their communications in the Mediterranean Sea.
In Litovkin's words, this time the ship was also heading for the Syrian coast for a combat mission. It will now be replaced by one of the seven equivalent-class ships from the Black Sea Fleet.
"This was a small ship and its loss is not as significant as the loss of the encryption machines and codes it had on board. The Russian Defense Ministry investigation will show if everything is still in place," Litovkin concluded.
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