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Court postpones K-159 submarine hearings until October 23 -1

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MOSCOW, September 27 (RIA Novosti) - A Moscow district court has postponed hearings of a lawsuit filed by widows of submariners who died when their Russian nuclear submarine sank almost three years ago, a court official said Wednesday.

The K-159, a November class nuclear submarine, sunk in 2003 while being towed to Polyarny in northwestern Russia for decommissioning. Nine members of the 10-man submarine crew died.

Four widows filed a lawsuit against the Defense Ministry demanding compensation of 1 million rubles (about $37,500) each in moral damages, a lawyer acting for them said earlier.

"In their lawsuit, the widows indicate that the state is responsible for the provision of effective safety measures for servicemen in time of peace," Svetlana Belova said. "Therefore, the Defense Ministry must compensate them for moral damages related to their husbands' deaths."

But the ministry protested the compensation claims, saying that the widows should press charges against former North Fleet commander, Admiral Gennady Suchkov, who was convicted of criminal negligence leading to the deaths of the K-159 submariners.

Suchkov made no attempt to rescue the submarine crew after it sent out a distress signal on August 28, 2003. The submarine had sunk in the Barents Sea, at a depth of 238 meters (about 900 feet), with nine of her crew and 800 kilograms (about 1,700lb) of spent nuclear fuel on board.

The admiral was removed from his post at the end of 2003 and sentenced by a court martial in May 2004 to a four-year suspended prison term with two years on probation.

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