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    SEVEROMORSK, FEBRUARY 16, 2004, /RIA-NOVOSTI CORRESPONDENT/ -- President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation is now sailing the Arkhangelsk SSBN (Strategic Submarine Ballistic Nuclear).

    The Russian leader flew over to Murmansk February 16, with Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov meeting Putin at the airport. Ivanov told the Commander-In-Chief that the North fleet's elements, as well as those of the Strategic Missile Force and the Space Force, were ready to conduct the strategic headquarters exercise's active phase.

    Putin then left for Severomorsk where the North fleet's main base is located.

    The Russian head of state entered a tent on the pier, taking a look at submariners' uniforms and receiving a sailor's pea-jacket.

    He then entered another tent, which contained submarine-crew rations, i.e. juices, fresh vegetables, fruits, wine, eggs, dairy products, caviar, Caspian roach, as well as canned meat and fish.

    Shrovetide has begun, Putin reminded those present, inquiring whether submarine crews are allowed to eat pancakes, which are the most popular Shrovetide food. Putin's interlocutors assured him that pancakes were a must.

    Putin went straight onto the conning tower's bridge, after boarding the Arkhangelsk, the Russian leader's spokesman Alexei Gromov noted. He observed ship-mooring sites in the harbor. After that, he went down below, entering the central command post, where the officer of the watch reported on the submarine's projected operations in the war-games zone.

    Putin inspected the SSBN, visiting the reactor-control room.

    Putin mixed with officers, while inspecting the submarine; moreover, he acquainted himself with their working conditions. The Commander-In-Chief then lunched together with the SSBN's officers.

    Vladimir Putin also conferred with Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, the Russian Navy's commander-in-chief Vladimir Kuroyedov and Alexei Rukshin, who heads the General Staff's main operations department, aboard the Arkhangelsk.

    This is Putin's second voyage aboard a submarine. In April 2000 the then president-elect Vladimir Putin took part in the North fleet's Barents Sea exercise. (to be continued).

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