MOSCOW, June 22 (RIA Novosti) - A Russian government official dismissed on Monday media rumors that Russia planned to lease several nuclear submarines to India, saying a contract envisioned only the transfer of the Nerpa vessel.
"We will lease only one submarine. In my opinion, India needs the sub more for enhancing its prestige rather than for accomplishing specific goals," Vyacheslav Dzirkaln, deputy head of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, said in an exclusive interview with RIA Novosti.
India reportedly paid $650 million for a 10-year lease of the 12,000-ton K-152 Nerpa, an Akula II class nuclear-powered attack submarine.
Indian media have reported that the construction of the vessel was partially financed by the government.
On November 8, 2008, while the Nerpa was undergoing sea trials in the Sea of Japan, its on-board fire suppression system went off, releasing a deadly gas into the sleeping quarters. Three submariners and 17 shipyard workers were killed. There were 208 people, 81 of them submariners, on board the vessel at the time.
According to Russian navy officials, the trials will resume in early July and the submarine will be delivered to India by the end of 2009.
Akula II class vessels are considered the quietest and deadliest of all Russian nuclear-powered attack submarines.