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‘Ask the Defense Ministry’ A transcript of the Kremlin's non-answers on the Severomorsk deep-sea fire that killed 14 sailors

Source: Meduza
Vladimir Astapkovich / Sputnik / Scanpix / LETA

Kommersant FM: About the tragedy in the Barents Sea. The Defense Ministry announced it only yesterday, July 2, although we know that the emergency occurred on the 1st. Does the Kremlin have an understanding of why this was made public only after what was almost a full day? When did the Kremlin itself learn what had happened?

Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov: Naturally, the commander-in-chief was informed immediately. You know that heroic acts on the part of the crew to save that vessel were involved. The information was publicized in good time. That’s all I can tell you.

Kommersant FM: Even now, it’s not clear exactly which submarine or station underwent this emergency. Does the Kremlin know? Could you specify where exactly [this occurred]?

Peskov: Why is it not clear? How could it not be clear? Naturally, it’s clear. The commander-in-chief has all the information at his disposal, but, naturally, that information cannot be released openly to the public. We’re talking about top-secret information, so in this case, it is entirely normal that it’s not being released.

Kommersant FM: And there are no plans to release it?

Peskov: No. No, of course not.

Meduza: You say you don’t plan to release this information. Does the Kremlin understand the scale of the information about this catastrophe that will always remain confidential? Mr. Putin already said that, unfortunately, seven first-rank captains were killed here, including two Heroes of Russia. Does the Kremlin believe in principle that society should not know the circumstances of the tragedy or what seven first-rank captains were doing on that vessel?

Peskov: Listen, there’s information that’s classified as state secrets. Those state secrets are kept in the interest of the state and in the interests of state security. So it’s an entirely normal practice when this kind of information is not publicized in any way. There’s nothing illegal here. This is all in complete alignment with the Russian Federation’s laws on state secrets. So there’s no reason here to ask these kinds of questions. That said, you should have no doubt whatsoever that the commander-in-chief of the military of the Russian Federation has access to all the information in full.

Reuters: Could you confirm whether there was an atomic reactor on board that vessel?

Peskov: That question’s not for me. We don’t build ships. Ask the Defense Ministry.

Ekho Moskvy: The Norwegian agency for defense against radiation announced that the Russian side told them a gas explosion had occurred…

Peskov: The Defense Ministry already issued a denial yesterday. Next.

 Ekho Moskvy: So you also won’t confirm that?

Peskov: Why “also”? Our primary source is our military servicemembers. Yesterday, our military agency made an announcement on the matter.

Ekho Moskvy: So the Norwegians are just spreading disinformation?

Peskov: Ask the Defense Ministry. There was an announcement yesterday.

BBC: I didn’t understand — what exactly is secret, a state secret?

Peskov: What your colleagues asked about.

BBC: So the secret is what the vessel was doing? Or the vessel itself?

Peskov: They were asking about the characteristics of the vessel and so on.

BBC: Could you confirm whether it was the AS-12 Losharik?

Peskov: No. No, I can’t. That question should be addressed to the Defense Ministry.

BBC: What was that station or submarine doing?

Peskov: Ask the Defense Ministry.

Govorit Moskva: About the names of the sailors who died. Will they be publicized, or is that a state secret too?

Peskov: Everything else should go to the Defense Ministry.

BBC: Does the president plan to meet with the relatives of those killed?

Peskov: You know that Defense Minister [Sergey] Shoigu was sent to Severomorsk on the president’s orders.

Meduza: Should we expect a mourning period to be announced on the regional or federal level following this catastrophe?

Peskov: Regionally, I don’t know. You would have to ask the regional government. In terms of a federal mourning period, there haven’t been any decisions made on that count as of yet.

Transcript by Mikhail Zelensky

Translation by Hilah Kohen