As it became known to Kommersant, in Murmansk, proceedings on two criminal cases related to a fire on the heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser Admiral Kuznetsov almost simultaneously ended. According to investigators, the perpetrators of the emergency on the flagship of the Russian Navy, which caused damage in the amount of at least 350 million rubles, were a shipyard welder and a midshipman who monitored his work. The welder has already received a four-year sentence, and the sailor, according to his representative, is ready to accept any court decision.
The investigation found the welder of the 35th shipyard in Murmansk, Arstan Begmanov, to be the main culprit of the fire. Carrying out repairs on December 19, 2019 on a cruiser that was in a dry dock at the plant, worker Begmanov accidentally dropped drops of molten metal onto the lower deck. As a result, garbage ignited, which consisted mainly of rags soaked in diesel fuel and fuel oil, and this led to a fire in the engine room and smoke in several compartments in which other specialists were working at that time.
The negligence of the welder Begmanov was qualified by the North-West Investigation Department of the TFR in transport as a violation of safety rules when conducting construction or other work (Article 216 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation).
But since the officer of the electromechanical warhead of the cruiser and the contract serviceman died in the fire, the worker was charged with the most severe part 3 of this article.
Arstan Begmanov could have received up to seven years in prison for the crime he committed, but at a recent meeting of the Leninsky District Court of Murmansk, a representative of the military prosecutor’s office of the Northern Fleet asked for a five-year term for the defendant. The judge sentenced him to four years in prison, but the welder considered this punishment too severe.
As Andrei Fofanov, the lawyer of the convict, explained to Kommersant, his client did not plead guilty, did not agree with the conclusions of the district court, and they have already appealed the decision to the Murmansk Regional Court. “If we fail to get an acquittal on appeal, we will definitely apply to the Third Court of Cassation of General Jurisdiction in St. Petersburg,” the defender said. Lawyer Fofanov did not want to go into the details of the proceedings, citing the secrecy of the criminal case.
It is worth noting that in parallel with the investigation of the criminal case of the welder Begmanov, the military investigation department of the TFR for the Northern Fleet dealt with another likely culprit of the fire – midshipman of the electromechanical warhead or BCH-5 of the cruiser Ilya Chapaev. In December 2019, midshipman Chapaev, together with his colleagues in the BC-5, who are also responsible for survivability and fire safety, supervised the so-called hot work on the cruiser. At the same time, according to the military investigation, officer Chapaev did not keep track of his ward Begmanov, which led to a fire.
The carelessness of midshipman Chapaev was qualified by the TFR under Part 3 of Art. 293 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (negligence with the onset of grave consequences).
With his criminal case for nearly three years dealt with the preliminary investigation; then for another six months the crime imputed to the midshipman was considered in the Murmansk garrison military court, the judge of which recently retired to pass the verdict.
In his last word, the defendant said that he was still worried because he had not been able to save his comrade and commander from death and would be ready to accept any decision of the garrison court. Midshipman Chapaev did not give the name and position of the deceased, but he most likely meant the commander of the BCh-5 division, Captain 3rd Rank Viktor Izmailov, who managed to pull four of his subordinates out of the fire and suffocated while trying to evacuate the fifth victim.
After listening to the statement of midshipman Chapaev, the presiding judge announced a break in the process prior to the sentencing. The judge promised to announce his decision on June 16.
Lawyer Natalya Lavrinyuk, like her colleague Andrey Feofanov, did not want to discuss the details of the criminal case and the debates of the parties with Kommersant, but said that the process itself was extremely complicated. In her opinion, the judge conducted it objectively and at a high level: he gave each of the parties the opportunity to express their position and took into account all the arguments that were voiced.
The lawyer expects that the military sailor, if not acquitted, will not be punished too severely.
“Witnesses told the court that Ilya Chapaev pulled at least two of his comrades out of the smoke zone and was the last to leave the compartment entrusted to him,” Natalya Lavrinyuk explained to Kommersant. According to the defender, the captain of the Admiral Kuznetsov, who spoke at the trial as a witness, called his subordinate Chapaev “a person who can be relied upon in any situation.”
Recall that the cruiser Admiral Kuznetsov, capable of carrying about fifty carrier-based fighters and anti-submarine combat helicopters, is considered the flagship of the Northern Fleet and the entire Russian Navy. In 2017, the ship, built in 1985, was put for repair in the floating dock PD-50, which belonged to the 82nd ship repair plant of the Zvyozdochka ship repair center in the Murmansk region, which, in turn, is part of the United Shipbuilding Corporation JSC ( OSK). The state contract worth 86 billion rubles provided for the modernization of the cruiser with the replacement of its power plant, take-off deck with a springboard, take-off and landing systems for carrier-based aircraft, missile weapons and avionics.
A few months after the start of work, on October 30, 2018, the PD-50, together with the cruiser installed in it, suddenly began to sink. It was not possible to keep the dock afloat, and the team miraculously saved the half-disassembled Admiral Kuznetsov from sinking. The cruiser was towed to the shore, but during the accident, a 70-ton crane fell onto its take-off deck, leaving a huge hole in it. It was necessary to close it up and continue the modernization already in the so-called dry, cast from reinforced concrete on the shore, the dock of the 35th Zvyozdochka shipyard.
By the way, the ex-head of the sunken dock, Pavel Kuzmin, was also accused under Art. 216 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, however, the proceedings in his criminal case, which began in the Leninsky District Court of Murmansk back in 2021, have not been completed so far – the hearings were interrupted several times due to the illness of the judge.
In 2019, the Admiral Kuznetsov is believed to have caught fire due to a welder’s oversight. After the emergency, USC General Director Alexei Rakhmanov said that the fire did not affect the main systems of the cruiser, but 350 million rubles would have to be spent on eliminating its consequences. At the same time, a Kommersant source at the headquarters of the Northern Fleet said that the damage actually caused to the ship as a result of the fire could be an order of magnitude greater. One way or another, the cruiser undergoing modernization has not yet returned to service. Recently, Mr. Rakhimov said that his transfer to the Navy will take place no earlier than the first quarter of next year.