Russia’s Accident-Plagued Aircraft Carrier Is On Fire (Updated)

According to reports and video coming out of Murmansk, the Russian Navy’s only aircraft carrier, the accident-plagued Admiral Kuznetsov, experienced a fire onboard. The vessel is undergoing what has been a tortured refit after its drydock sunk beneath it just over a year ago. Its future has been repeatedly questioned considering the country no longer has a dry dock large enough to service the ship, but work has supposedly continued on the three-decade-old vessel regardless. 

According to Russia’s TASS news agency, eight people were rescued from the area that was set ablaze, three of which were injured. One individual remains unaccounted for. TASS described the incident as ongoing along with the following details:

“According to emergency services, the fire occurred during repair works in the first power unit and a thick plume of black smoke is seen from the upper deck.

The engulfed area has grown six-fold to 120 square meters. Diesel fuel is currently burning and the firefighting effort is carried out with the use of foam.

Safety rules’ violation is considered as a likely cause of the blaze.

The press service of the Zvyozdochka ship repair center said the specialists working onboard the vessel had been evacuated.”

Meanwhile, RT reports that six people were injured and two are missing, as well as the fire being much larger than stated in TASS’s report, estimated as covering some 600 square meters. RT describes the response as such:

“Firefighters are battling the blaze, which started in the first power section of the vessel. The efforts to put it down have reportedly been made more difficult by the heavy smoke coming from the burning cables.”

A subsequent tweet from RT stated that the fire was likely sparked by welders:

It isn’t uncommon for conflicting reports to emerge early on during such an incident. It will be interesting to know exactly what the reality is and if the situation is as stated or worse. 

Russia is no stranger to naval shipyard fires. Multiple incidents have occurred in recent years that don’t shine its naval support capabilities in the brightest light. By far, the worst fire-related incident on a Russian naval vessel in many years occurred this summer when the nuclear mini-submarine Losharik experienced an internal blaze that killed 14 of the country’s finest sailors

You can read our complete in-depth profile on the Admiral Kuznetsov and its backstory by clicking here and take a video tour of the ship by reading this past piece of ours. The vessel is notorious for breakdowns and accidents, some of which have been deadly. On the air wing side, two fighter jets were lost just days apart during the vessel’s relatively short cruise to support combat operations in Syria in late 2016. As such, the ship has become the brunt of international jokes in the press and in military circles. 

The Admiral Kuznetsov seen during its troubled 2016/2017 cruise. , Andrei LuzikTASS via Getty Images

The deep overhaul it was set to get, which was already scaled back considerably in scope, was supposed to solve some of the vessel’s chronic issues and update its ancient combat systems. That was before its dry dock sunk below it and a crane came crashing down onto its flight deck. After yet another incident, maybe the Russian Ministry of Defense will finally call it quits on the beleaguered vessel, but in doing so, they would leave the Russian Navy’s sole carrier air wing without a ship to fly from. 

We will update this post as more information comes available. 

UPDATE: 7:20am PST—


is now reporting that three people have been injured in the accident with emergency services personnel rescuing a total of eight individuals from the blaze. One person remains unaccounted for, according to their latest report. RT‘s reporting about the total number of people injured and missing remains unchanged.

Aleksey Rakhmanov, head of Russia’s state-run United Shipbuilding Corporation, which has been performing Kuznetsov‘s overhaul, said that “a human factor” could be the root cause of the mishap, Russian outlet Interfax


More videos of the fire have also emerged online.

Another video of Kuznetsov on fire, seen below, has been making the rounds in light of this latest accident, but is from an unrelated blaze the carrier suffered in 2009. 

UPDATE: 10:24am PST—

TASS now reports 10 people were injured in the incident, stating:

“Ten people were injured: they were mostly poisoned by combustion products,” the source said. Six people are in the intensive care unit. Just one injured person is in satisfactory condition.

UPDATE: 11:55am PST—

Interfax is now reporting that at least one sailor has died, citing a statement from the Russian Navy’s Northern Fleet. At least 10 sailors received treatment for smoke inhalation and two remain missing, as well, according to that story.

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