Russia is remaining tight-lipped about a Monday fire that killed 14 sailors on a deep-sea submersible, claiming details are a state secret. "There is nothing illegal about this. It fully corresponds to the Russian law on state secrets," a spokesman for President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday, describing information on the vessel as "totally classified." The Russian Defense Ministry has said the vessel was a research submersible surveying the seabed in Russian waters near the Arctic, while media reports suggest it was a secret nuclear-powered submarine designed for deep-sea operations. If that's true, the incident might've caused radiation leaks, per the BBC. Reuters reports officials in neighboring Norway hadn't detected abnormal radiation as of Tuesday.
The Bell, a Russian news site often critical of the government, was among the outlets faulting the lack of transparency. "Nearly a day without information about the accident in a nuclear facility and the need to look out for Norwegian statements about the level of radiation should have given a shudder to those who remember the [1986 disaster at] Chernobyl nuclear power station," it said. The presidential spokesman said Putin had ordered an investigation into the deaths, attributed to smoke inhalation, while Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu had been sent to Severomorsk, the main base of Russia's Northern Fleet where the damaged vessel now rests. Unconfirmed media reports suggest at least five sailors survived the fire, which was eventually extinguished. (Read more Russia stories.)