MOSCOW -- A Russian nuclear submarine with more than 100 crew members was trapped Monday on the ocean floor above the Arctic Circle, and chances of a rescue were not good, Russia's navy chief said.
Russian navy commander Admiral Vladimir Kuroyedov said the likelihood of reaching the stricken Kursk and its crew was "not high," according to the ITAR-Tass news agency.
The submarine plunged to the floor of the Barents Sea on Sunday while taking part in a major naval exercise off Russia's northern coast. The navy had been saying rescue efforts were going well until the admiral's sudden announcement.
Navy officials declined to say how far the vessel was beneath the surface, but a Norwegian report said the Kursk was some 480 feet down, a depth at which it would be very difficult to rescue anyone because of the enormous water pressure.
Kuroyedov said it appeared that the submarine suffered major damage after colliding with another object, but he gave no further details. Russian and Western submarines sometimes play cat-and-mouse games in the area.
Earlier, navy officials insisted the submarine was in good condition. They had said nothing about a collision.
The Barents Sea is in arctic waters bordering the northwest coast of Russia and the northern tip of Norway. Rescue ships were at the scene, trying to assist the stricken submarine.
Navy officials said earlier that they were in radio contact with the submarine, but it was not clear if that was still the case.
The Kursk was built in 1994 and went into service in 1995, making it one of the newest vessels in the Russian navy. It is a nuclear strategic submarine that can carry up to 24 nuclear surface-to-surface missiles, used mainly in combat with ships.
Earlier, navy spokesman Igor Dygalo said the Oscar-class submarine was not carrying any nuclear weapons and there was no immediate danger of radiation leaks or an explosion. The vessel's two nuclear reactors had been shut down, he said.
If the submarine was involved in a collision that ruptured its hull, there could be a chance of radioactive leaks.
The submarine could not move, but it was not clear why, said Igor Babenko, a spokesman for the Northern Fleet, to which the submarine belongs. "Certainly, the situation is serious," he said.
NTV television news, citing unnamed sources, reported earlier that water gushed through the submarine's torpedo tubes during a firing exercise and flooded the front of the vessel.
Norway, which has a scientific vessel in the region, said the submarine was lying in about 480 feet of water off Russia's Kola Peninsula. Foreign Ministry spokesman Karsten Klepsvik said there was no sign of a radiation leak.
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