Kremlin refuses to reveal details about fatal Russian submarine fire, declares it 'state secret'

Two days after a mysterious fire aboard a Russian submersible killed 14 people, little details have emerged as the Kremlin continued Wednesday to shroud the incident in secrecy.

Speaking at the Russian Navy’s Arctic base of Severomorsk Wednesday, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu praised the “heroic” crew members that sacrificed their own lives Monday to save a civilian and several other members aboard a deep-sea submersibles that caught fire while on a research mission.

"The submariners acted heroically in the critical situation," he said. "They evacuated a civilian expert from the compartment that was engulfed by fire and shut the door to prevent the fire from spreading further and fought for the ship's survival until the end."

Russian President Vladimir Putin listens to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu during their meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, July 2, 2019. (Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin listens to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu during their meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, July 2, 2019. (Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

AT LEAST 14 SAILORS DEAD AFTER RUSSIAN SUB CATCHES FIRE DURING RESEARCH MISSION: OFFICIALS 

Shoigu confirmed that 14 seamen were killed and that some members survived, although he did not specify how many. The ministry said the cause of death was intoxication by toxic fumes from the fire.

The ministry has refused to name the vessel involved in Monday’s fatal blaze but has said that the crew were on a research mission to measure sea depths in the Barents Sea.

In this file photo taken on Friday, Aug. 5, 2005, a Russian mini rescue submarine, AS-34, called a Priz, left, is seen aboard the rescue ship Rudnetsky in the Barents Sea, Russia. (TASS News Agency via AP)

In this file photo taken on Friday, Aug. 5, 2005, a Russian mini rescue submarine, AS-34, called a Priz, left, is seen aboard the rescue ship Rudnetsky in the Barents Sea, Russia. (TASS News Agency via AP)

President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov went a step further in declining to answer questions about the name of the submersible by also refusing to speak about its mission citing confidential information.

"Some information related to the category of state secret", he told reporters. "It is normal practice that such information is not released."

Local media has speculated that the vessel involved was the nuclear-powered AS-12 Losharik, which in itself is a ship that little is known about.

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Having only entered service in 2010, the Losharik is the most advanced and most obscure Russian submarine. It's named after a Soviet-era cartoon character, a toy horse made of small spheres.

In 2012, it was involved in research intended to prove Russia's claim on the vast Arctic seabed. It collected samples from the depth of 8,202 feet, according to official statements at the time. Regular submarines can typically dive to depths of up to 2,000 feet. Some Russian officials have claimed that the sub can travel as deep as 19,685 feet, although this has yet to be independently verified.

In this video grab provided by the RU-RTR Russian television via APTN , Russia rescue personnel return from a dive in a mini submarine to the Kursk on the sea bed in the Barents Sea, Russia. (RU-RTR Russian Television via AP)

In this video grab provided by the RU-RTR Russian television via APTN , Russia rescue personnel return from a dive in a mini submarine to the Kursk on the sea bed in the Barents Sea, Russia. (RU-RTR Russian Television via AP)

The cause of the fire has also remained a mystery after the Ministry strongly denied reports of a “gas explosion” by Norwegian authorities, Reuters reported.

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The Norwegian Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority said Tuesday that it was informed by Moscow that there was a “gas explosion” aboard a submarine in the Barents Sea but that it did not detect abnormally high levels of radiation, a claim the defense ministry has strongly denied.

The names of the victims have also been withheld. Putin said Tuesday that seven of the dead had the rank of captain and two were awarded the nation's highest medal, the Hero of Russia.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.