THE KURSK WILL BE LIFTED FOR AN IOU: CONTRACT MAY BE SIGNED THIS WEEK

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Ilya Bulavinov, Ivan Fedin Kommersant, March 27, 2001, p. 3

SUMMARY:

Deputy Premier Ilya Klebanov says the Design Bureau Rubin begins the work on signing the contract with Western companies this week. In the meantime, financial problems have not been solved yet. Sources in the Brussels office of the International Foundation Kursk say one of the largest European banks ING Barings expressed the desire to loan money for the operation. Perhaps, this is the last chance to find the necessary $70 million and execute the operation this year.

Officials of the international consortium are coming to St. Petersburg this Wednesday for negotiations with Igor Spassky of the Rubin. Russian government has not kept its promise to raise half of the necessary sum to the tune of $25-35 million.

On Friday, Premier Mikhail Kasianov did instruct the Finance Ministry to transact 500 million to the Defense Ministry for “technical maintenance of the ships and auxiliary vessels to be directly involved in the operation,” but this is not what the prospective contractors want. They refused to sign the contract once and made it clear that promises and even guarantees from the Russian government did not interest them.

Moscow does not allocate the money and essentially refuses financial assistance from the European Union. The latter offers help in return for Russia’s cooperation in the MNERP environmental program. All these problems could have been solved at the Russian – European Union summit but Russian delegation did not broach the matter in Stockholm.

If the contract is not signed now, the project will be as good as finished. The consortium will not be able to execute it in 2001, and the possibility of lifting the Kursk in 2002 is out of the question. Nobody knows what is going to happen to the hull of the submarine in the meantime.

Moscow may be forced to loan money to finance the operation. President Putin did promise to have the Kursk lifted from the seabed in 2001.

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