DCSIMG

Romanov invites Soviet sub heroes to cup final

Key quote These men helped prevent the most awful catastrophe that any of us could ever imagine - an explosion on a nuclear submarine. Some of their comrades died in this act of sacrifice but like any submariner they did their duty, not thinking of themselves" - Vladimir Romanov, Hearts Football Club majority-shareholder

Story in full HEARTS' owner Vladimir Romanov has invited a group of Soviet submarine heroes to be his personal guests at tomorrow's Scottish Cup Final.

Mr Romanov, who served in the Soviet submarine fleet during the Cold War, said the men are survivors of the notorious K-19 nuclear submarine disaster.

Tomorrow, they will be given premium seats to the match against Gretna.

In 1961, a reactor on K-19, the Soviet Union's first nuclear-powered submarine, malfunctioned and threatened a nuclear explosion off the coast of the United States.

With communications to Moscow cut off, eight sailors undertook a mission to stop the radiation leak and fix the reactor, believing that an explosion might be perceived by the United States as a pre-emptive strike and trigger nuclear war.

Many in the crew suffered severe radiation poisoning. The story was made famous in the film K-19: The Widowmaker starring Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson.

Mr Romanov said: "These men helped prevent the most awful catastrophe that any of us could ever imagine - an explosion on a nuclear submarine.

"Some of their comrades died in this act of sacrifice but like any submariner they did their duty, not thinking of themselves.

"Hollywood has highlighted what they did but it can never convey the full scale of the danger, or the bravery of the men."

Mr Romanov, a Russian millionaire who took over the club last October, served on the K-19 and slipped secretly into Scottish waters some five years after the nuclear incident and after major repairs to the vessel.

He met veterans of the nuclear disaster while at a 100th anniversary of the Russian submarine service with president Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin earlier this year.

He said: "If I feel an affinity to these retired sailors, it is because some years after this horror, I served on this same K-19 submarine as a young conscript in the Soviet navy."

Mr Romanov said he has invited the men to further recognise their achievement and to help him "put football into perspective" during the Cup Final.

During their stay, the K-19 veterans will meet counterparts from the Royal Navy who served during the Cold War.

With their mission remaining a Soviet state secret for many years, the K-19 veterans are only now receiving the recognition they deserve, Mr Romanov said.

Earlier this year, Mikhail Gorbachev proposed in a letter to the Norwegian Nobel Committee that the crew should be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Mr Romanov said: "I hope many Scots, no matter which team you support, will join me in welcoming these heroes."

 
 
 

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