A fire aboard a Russian navy research submersible has killed 14 crew members, the Russian defence ministry says.

It says the crew members were poisoned by fumes when the vessel caught fire while taking biometric measurements in Russian territorial waters on Monday.

The fire was later put out and the vessel is now at Severomorsk, the main base of the Russian Northern Fleet in the Murmansk region.

An investigation into the incident is now under way.

Submersibles are generally smaller vessels with limited crew on board supported by ships on the surface, while submarines are larger vessels capable of operating autonomously over long distances.

The Kursk submarine, which was destroyed by an explosion in the Barents Sea in August 2000 with the loss of its crew of 118, was also part of the Northern Fleet.