Soviets say it was no accident

(The following excerpts from an interview between a PRAVDA.RU journalist and Captain Nikolay Cherkashin are taken from the web page at:

captain charkashin has been investigating the circumstances surrounding the 1967 uss liberty tragedy during the past several years. what is more, a book by nikolay cherkashin, "mysteries of lost warships," was recently published. this is the result of his independent investigations of russian submarines from empress maria to the kursk.)

well, let's go back to the attack on the liberty. could it have been a tragic accident when the us ship was mistakenly taken for an egyptian cargo ship? was it a deliberate attack? provocation? what do you think about it?

- last year, a russian translation of joseph daichman's "history of the mossad" was published in moscow. the author describes the tragedy in 1967 in detail. he admits that it was perfectly clear that the liberty was an american ship and that the attack was committed to deprive the usa "of its eyes and ears," of the opportunity to control the situation. daichman says the attackers had the right to act so. the israelis feared that the liberty would report information about the course of the war: they wanted to keep it a secret that troops had been shifted to syria and the egyptian border wasn't protected at all. the border was quite open for egyptian soldiers to cross. israel knew that american radio signals were intercepted by the soviet union, and the latter would certainly inform egypt of the fact. that is why the liberty was to be sunk to avoid leakage of important information. this is a very cynical version. i even couldn't have thought that i would ever read it.

which version do you prefer?

- both versions don't contradict each other. both objects could be pursued at once, and two birds could be killed with one stone. israel wanted to stop leakage of information and, at the same time, established a precedent for us troops to fight against arabs. if the americans landed, the soviet troops would also have done the same, and a great stir would have started then.

the soviet submarine k-172 under the command of nikolay shashkov armed with missiles and nuclear warheads was at the very same moment in the bay of sidre. the submarine received instructions to surface and deliver a blow against the israeli coast if the americans landed troops on syrian shores. the submarine had eight nuclear missiles on board. however, as we know the israeli coast means the whole sate of israel stretched along the sea. israel would have been completely destroyed if such blows were delivered by the soviet submarine. i wrote about nikolay shashkov; the publication was called "the man who was to destroy israel." the publication produced a strong response from society. i received inquiries from the israeli embassy, and many journalists wanted just to see the man who was to liquidate the israeli state. the k-172 crew had to operate under emergency conditions; the submariners nearly died of high concentration of mercury vapor in its compartments. several people were poisoned with the vapor, suffered from hallucinations and giddiness, and no explanation could be found to it. can you imagine what submariners suffering from hallucinations could have done with nuclear warheads? they were to have been immediately sent to hospitals. however, as the situation in the region was still tense, the soviet navy commander-in-chief asked the submariners if they would be able to stay in the area for several more weeks, and the submariners agreed. even when doctors were sent to the submarine, they failed to find the cause of hallucinations and giddiness. nobody even guessed that was mercury, and people spent two months in the compartments poisoned with mercury vapors.

sergey stefanov
translated by maria gousseva

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Jim Ennes and Joe Meadors

USS Liberty