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Russian ship sinks in Black Sea after crashing into freighter

A Russian naval intelligence ship has sunk off Turkey’s Black Sea coast after colliding with a merchant vessel carrying a cargo of livestock.

According to Press TV, Turkey’s coastal safety authority said on its website that the Russian ship, identified as the Liman, hit the Togo-flagged Youzarsif H, some 18 nautical miles (33 kilometers) north of the town of Kilyos in Istanbul’s Sariyer district, causing significant damage under the water line.

The seventy-eight crew members of the 1,560-ton reconnaissance ship did not manage to keep the vessel afloat, but all were successfully rescued.

Turkish authorities dispatched a tugboat and three fast rescue vessels. Turkish coast guard rescued 63 crew members, whereas 15 others were saved by the crew of the cargo vessel. None of the crew members suffered any critical injuries.

The Turkish shipping agency, GAC, said the collision was caused due to heavy fog and low visibility.

The Russian Defense Ministry said the Liman “sustained a hull breach due to a collision” with another ship, about 40 kilometers northwest of the Bosphorus Strait.

It also said that Youzarsif H “didn’t get significant damage and continued to move on its route.”

The Russian military said it was trying to identify the owner of Togo-flagged livestock carrier, which was reportedly built in 1977 and has a capacity of 2,418 tons.

Other Russian navy ships and a plane have been dispatched to the area.

Turkish Transport Minister Ahmed Arslan said the rescued crew members of the Russian ship were in good health after the collision.

The Liman was part of the Black Sea Fleet. It was a former research vessel that the Russian Navy had retro-fitted into a reconnaissance ship.

It spent much of the winter in the Mediterranean off the coast of Syria, before returning to the Black Sea to monitor North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)’s naval exercises in February.

Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has spoken to his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, by phone over the incident, expressing his sadness.

It was not known where the Liman was sailing from or its destination.

Russian warships frequently pass through the narrow Bophorus Strait. The 17-mile waterway connects the Black Sea to the Mediterranean, and is among the world’s most important routes for transit of oil and grains.