LIFTING KURSK POSTPONED… FOREVER

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Vyachsdlav Gudkov, Alexei Smirnov, Yevgeny Fedorov Kommersant, March 12, 2001, p. 1

Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov announced the Kursk salvage operation would be postponed. Specialists think the postponement will make the operation impossible.

Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov stated in St. Petersburg on March 11 that the Kursk salvage operation has been postponed “from July-August to the end of summer or the beginning of autumn.” This means that it is possible the operation will not take place.

The deputy prime minister has shifted the responsibility for the postponement onto the international Kursk foundation. According to Mr. Klebanov, the foundation has been unable to collect the necessary $55 million. He noted there are no problems with funding the operation from the Russian budget: “The Russian budget has theoretically allocated $20-$25 million.” In addition Ilya Klebanov stated that there is an agreement with the international consortium which will raise the submarine. It is possible that the Russian budget will pay for this job in 2002. All this is rather strange. Until recently everyone thought that the main reason why the contract of the Rubin design bureau and the international consortium may be postponed was the failure of the Russian government to allocate money. The consortium cannot start the operation without this allocation. This statement was made by representatives of the foundation and the members of the state commission for investigating the Kursk disaster. Last Wednesday the Duma addressed Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov with a request “to resolve all financial problems linked with salvaging the Kursk nuclear submarine as soon as possible.” According to the Duma, the government is the one hindering the solution of all financial problems. All technical and organizational issues have been resolved. The deputies who prepared the request are members of the state commission. This means that they know the actual state of affairs.

In other words, Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov has tried to shift the responsibility from the government. The situation linked with raising the Kursk submarine is critical. A well-informed source in the salvage department of the Northern Fleet told the newspaper Kommersant: “If the salvage operation begins in September the Kursk will be raised by the end of October. If the operation is postponed until the end of September it will fail. The operation will last for two months. The end of October and the beginning of November is the time of storms in the Barents Sea. No one has ever raised such a big submarine from a depth of 100 meters. The lack of experience will create additional difficulties and hinder the operation. This means the operation must start by mid-August.”

Preparations must begin in early June: it is planned to examine the submarine using Mir submarines. According to specialists, preparations must begin in May or in June in order to start the operation in August. Mr. Klebanov stated on March 11 that the contract would be signed in April.

It should be noted that Gennady Sorokin, a representative of the Rubin design bureau, and Igor Dygalo, Secretary of the Navy press service, stated that they did not know anything about the postponement of the salvage operation. This means that the government commission headed by Ilya Klebanov is in panic.

(…) If the Kursk is not raised in 2001, it will never be salvaged: no one can guarantee that the submarine which spent two years on the seabed will stand the test of time.

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