On the brink of nuclear disaster

Publish date: July 24, 1997

Written by: Igor Kudrik

The Atlantic Ocean, north of Bermuda, October 1986: Strategic nuclear submarine K-219 (Yankee class) sinks after an explosion in one of the missile tubes. Damages to the internal systems nearly lead to an uncontrolled launch of nuclear missiles aimed at US cities New York, Washington and Boston.

This information was revealed by the Russian Ambassador to the US, Mr. Vorontsov, during the Washington premiere of a new American movie about the 1986 sub accident, reports RIA News agency.

On October 6 1986, at 11:03 Moscow time, Soviet submarine K-219 (Yankee class) sank 800 km east of the US coastline, following an explosion in one of the ballistic missile tubes. The reason for the explosion is still unclear. There are two theories on how the accident happened: A defect in the missile tube itself; or a fire that broke out following a collision with an American submarine. The latter is still denied by US Navy officials.

In the mid of July this year, Russian Ambassador to the US, Mr. Uliy Vorontsov attended the Washington premiere of a new American feature movie on the 1986 sub accident. Mr. Vorontsov confirmed that there was a real danger of uncontrolled attack on three major US cities, and that he personally, being in the rank of deputy foreign minister, participated in a closed meeting of the Political Bureau of the USSR Communist Party which delt with the situation.

The insident happened just before the top level meeting between presidents Michael Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan in Reykjavik, and considerable diplomatic efforts were undertaken by the Russian and American sides in order to prevent the development of a conflict situation.