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    The Amur shipyard in Russia's Far East said on Monday it had started sea trials of a newly built nuclear-powered attack submarine, which according to media reports may be leased to India.

    VLADIVOSTOK, October 27 (RIA Novosti) - The Amur shipyard in Russia's Far East said on Monday it had started sea trials of a newly built nuclear-powered attack submarine, which according to media reports may be leased to India.

    The construction of the Akula II class Nerpa nuclear attack submarine started in 1991 but has been suspended for over a decade due to lack of funding. Akula II class vessels are considered the quietest and deadliest of Russian nuclear-powered attack submarines.

    "The submarine, built under a contract with the Russian Defense Ministry, has been moved from the shipyard in Komsomolsk-on-Amur to a maintenance facility in the Primorye Territory and fitted with all necessary equipment. At present it is undergoing sea trials," a spokesman for the shipyard told RIA Novosti.

    Indian media have reported on various occasions that the construction of the submarine was partially financed by the Indian government. India has reportedly paid $650 million for a 10-year lease of the 12,000-ton submarine.

    According to Indian defense sources, Nerpa is expected to join the Indian navy under the designation INS Chakra in the second half of 2009.

    The submarine will not be equipped with long-range cruise missiles due to international restrictions on missile technology proliferation, but India may later opt to fit it with domestically designed long-range nuclear-capable missiles.

    However, a spokesman for the Amur shipyard earlier said that Nerpa differed considerably from the previous Akula-class submarines.

    "Our Nerpa is fitted with more sophisticated navigation, sonar, and hydraulic systems," he said.

    Russian state officials have categorically denied reports of a possible lease of a nuclear submarine to India.

    Asked in late September to comment on media reports on alleged plans to export nuclear submarines, in particular to India, Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said: "The press discusses lots of things. We do not export nuclear submarines."

    India previously leased a Charlie I class nuclear submarine from the Soviet Union from 1988 to 1991.

    Russia recently handed over to India the INS Sindhuvijay diesel-electric submarine after an extensive overhaul at a shipyard in northern Russia.

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