Russia says sea mine sunk Cheonan: report

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Russia says sea mine sunk Cheonan: report

The daily newspaper Hankyoreh reported yesterday that Russia has concluded the sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan was a sea mine accident, not a torpedo attack by North Korea.

If the report is true, Russia will be the first nation to try to absolve North Korea for the incident, which is considered the most deadly attack on the South’s military since the Korean War.

The Defense Ministry denied the newspaper’s report.

The Hankyoreh report was based on what the vernacular paper claimed is an official document from the Russian government. Titled “Russian Navy experts group’s review of the cause of the sinking of the South Korean ship Cheonan,” the document claimed the explosion that sunk the Cheonan was an accident.

The document was cited as saying that the Cheonan was cruising in a shallow area close to the shore when its propeller got tangled in a net. As the corvette was trying to get into deeper sea, the ship touched an antenna-shaped detonator of a mine, which triggered the explosion. It did not say whether the mine was North Korean.

A Seoul-led multinational investigation in May concluded that the sinking, which killed 46 sailors, was a torpedo attack by the North.

The ministry refuted the Hankyoreh dispatch and the Russian report it supposedly described. “There is no possibility that the Cheonan was exploded after hitting a mine,” said Defense Ministry spokesman Won Tae-jae at a news briefing held yesterday afternoon. Won said Russia has not informed Seoul of the result of its own investigation into the Cheonan case, which he said is still ongoing. “Currently, the Russian team is reviewing materials it collected on their visit to Korea,” he said.

A group of Russian scientists visited South Korea between May 31 to June 7 as a part of the Russian investigation into the Cheonan tragedy. A spokesman of the Russian Embassy in Seoul also told the JoongAng Ilbo that the Russian government has yet to inform Seoul of the result of its investigation.

By Moon Gwang-lip []
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