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. Whistleblower broke secret of Russian sub and 'saved men's lives'
Without an anonymous phone call by a tearful woman to a local radio station, the world may have heard too late about the Russian submarine stranded in the Pacific to save its seven crew, the journalist who took the call claimed Tuesday.

Guzel Latypova, a journalist in the port city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, says the mysterious caller shattered an official silence and in doing so pressured the authorities to look abroad for help in mounting the rescue.

The telephone rang at Radio 3, where Latypova is news director, about 24 hours after the AS-28 mini-sub became trapped 190 meters (625 feet) under the Pacific.

"A woman called in tears. She was saying that a mini-sub had got stuck with seven men aboard in the Bay of Berezovaya," Latypova, 32, recounted to AFP. The mystery caller said she had got the news from "someone" in the military.

"She saved these lads. A monument should be raised to her. If she had not called it would have remained a secret, I'm sure."

Latypova, who also works for the Kamchatka Peninsula region's STS television and the Russian news agency Interfax, was not sure at first what to make of the sensational tip-off.

"That day there was hardly any news. I called my colleague at Ria Novosti news agency, Oksana Guseva, and we tried to verify the report through our own sources."

Guseva managed to get through to Rear Admiral Viktor Gavrikov, commander in chief of the armed forces for the northeast of Russia. "Immediately his voice changed. He said 'no comment' and put the phone down. That convinced us it was serious," Latypova said.

Five minutes later, she had broadcast over the radio, and soon afterward the report was spreading across Russia through news agencies and television stations.

It was only thanks to the media that the wife of the submarine's commander, 25-year-old Vyacheslav Miloshevsky, then discovered the news.

"She heard on the local television at 7:00 p.m. No one gave her any official warning," Latypova said.

When the worried family tried to find out from the navy what the chances were of seeing their loved one again, a military psychologist arrived. "This is Russia -- pray!" he told Miloshevsky's wife Yelena, according to Latypova, who went to offer the family support.

"That's the sort of psychological help they got."

Only a few hours later did the Russian military in the capital Moscow and Pacific coast city Vladivostok confirm the report.

But in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, the military port at the centre of the desperate, three-day rescue operation, local military authorities did not say a word about the drama until Tuesday -- two days after the incident was over.

Media pressure may have played a role in President Vladimir Putin's decision to dispatch Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov to the scene, and -- crucially -- in the military's painful acknowledgement of the need for foreign help.

As soon as a high-tech British naval robot cut the cables and nets trapping the submarine, the seven men inside were saved.

This was not the first scoop for Latypova's Radio 3, which has bucked the Russian trend of extreme loyalty to the authorities and caution about running any embarrassing news.

"This is not a region here, but the edge of Russia, and that changes everything. It's the peninsula of freedom," Latypova quipped. "Don't forget that the inhabitants here are the descendants of adventurers."

All rights reserved. 2005 Agence France-Presse. Sections of the information displayed on this page (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence, you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the content of this section without the prior written consent of Agence France-Presse.

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