A Kremlin spokesman said on Thursday that Admiral Gennady Suchkov has been ''temporarily relieved of his duties'' by a presidential decree pending an inquiry into the sinking of the submarine on 30 August, in which nine sailors died.

Navy commander-in-chief Vladimir Kuroyedov said the sinking of the K-159 submarine was avoidable.

"It would have been quite possible to avoid this tragedy if everyone on the spot, from the command of the towing operation to the command of the fleet, had fulfilled requirements and instructions," he said.

"The fleet leadership did not check the worthiness of the submarine for towing and the operation," he added.

The decommissioned submarine sunk while being towed to a scrapyard. The captain who supervised the towing was placed under suspension immediately.

The sinking of the K-159 was Russia's second big submarine /disaster, the first one being in August 2000 when another nuclear submarine sunk, killing 118 servicemen.

British Destroyer

Meanwhile, the captain of the British destroyer, Nottingham and three of his former officers have pleaded guilty at a Royal Navy court martial to charges relating to the running aground of their ship off Australia last year.

Commander Richard Farrington pleaded guilty to delegating conduct of the ship without insuring a sufficient navigational plan. His three subordinate officers pleaded guilty to various counts of negligence.

On running aground, the warship was left with a 33 metre hole and a repair bill of $ 62.2 million.