Details are slowly being revealed about the Russian submarine accident in waters north of the Arctic Circle that killed 14 of its personnel.

Putin confirms that the vessel was nuclear powered.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday confirmed reports that the navy’s deep-sea submersible vessel that caught fire on Monday, killing 14 seamen, was nuclear-powered. Russian officials previously declined to release any details of the vessel, citing its secret mission.

Putin met Thursday with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who had returned from the Navy’s Arctic base of Severomorsk, and asked him about the submersible’s nuclear reactor. Shoigu said the reactor is “completely isolated now” and it is “in full working order.”

The blaze erupted at the vessel’s battery compartment and spread, Shoigu said in televised remarks. The Defense Ministry earlier said 14 people have been killed and that there was an undisclosed number of survivors.

Putin indicates that officials overseeing the stricken submarine’s recovery have assured him that its nuclear reactor had been contained.

“The Nuclear reactor on the vessel is completely isolated and unmanned. All the necessary measures were taken by the crew to protect the reactor which is in complete working order,” Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told Putin, according to a Kremlin transcript.

“It’s a huge loss for the navy — and for the military overall,” Putin said in a televised meeting with Shoigu on Wednesday. Sitting across from each other in the Kremlin, the two men discussed the 14 navy personnel killed in a fire on a deep-sea vessel near Severomorsk.

More on this incident is in the following video report:

PJ Media‘s Richard Fernandez notes that the Russian dead include several key naval officers.

A tragic fire aboard a secret Russian nuclear “mini-sub” in the Barents Sea that killed 14 senior sailors has refocused media attention on a little-noticed flash-point of the world: the Arctic. That an important Russian system was being tested or demonstrated was suggested by reports “that among the 14 dead were 7 senior navy captains and 2 ‘Heroes of Russia.'” The presence of so many Russian navy worthies raises questions because brass do not typically twiddle dials on mini-submarines, but watch them being twiddled until something goes horribly wrong.

The submarine Losharik is named after a Russian cartoon horse made up of juggling balls. The handle is a play on the fact that the submarine is internally made up of up to seven interlinked high pressure orbs designed to relieve pressure at the exceedingly deep depths in which it is suppose to operate.

This incident has occurred in conjunction with reports of increased activity along underwater communication cables.

Losharik is designed to operate on the ocean floor, front-mounted flood lights, remotely operated arms for manipulated equipment, and retractable ski feet for sitting on the seabed. Although described as a scientific research submarine, she is assigned to the Main Directorate for Deep Sea Research, known by its Russian acronym GUGI. The submarine is considered highly classified and the only known photo appeared in the Russian magazine version of Top Gear, when it accidentally sailed into a camera shot.

According to The Barents Observer GUGI reports directly to the General Staff of the Armed Forces and GUGI’s fleet of nine submarines frequently depart on “special missions”. “Little is known about the nature of those voyages,” The Barents Observer writes, “except reports of significantly increased activity along subsea cables which carry global electronic communication.”

As this Fox News Channel report notes, the increased activity was also associated with several massive and unusual outages. Questions are arising among American defense experts as to whether the cables are being targeted for spying, destruction, or both.

Whatever happened aboard the Losharik, its importance to Russia is highlighted by statements made by its defense officials.

According to the defense minister, the special purpose submarine can be fully restored and taken back in service. Sergey Shoigu in Thursday morning met with President Putin following his trip to Severomorsk, the Northern Fleet headquarters, on Wednesday.

“The constructors of the vessel and industrial representatives have been engaged in order to estimate the work volume and time period needed for the restoration of the ship,” Shoigu told the President.

“Our first assessment shows that repair is possible, [and] in our case it is not only possible, it it absolutely required,” the defense minister underlined.