RUBIN DESIGN BUREAU, INTERNATIONAL CONSORTIUM BEGIN FINAL TALKS OVER LIFTING OF KURSK

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Vremya Novostei, March 29, 2001, p. 3

The members of the Russian delegation at the talks over regarding the operation to recover the sunken nuclear-powered submarine Kursk have differing opinions: some state that the contract to raise the sub will be signed “within several days,” others claim that the talks are “plodding along.”

Russia is represented at the talks by officials of the Rubin Design Bureau and other defense enterprises, the Russian Shipbuilding Agency, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Defense Ministry, whom the government vested with the status of the operation customer. The international consortium is represented by employees of the American firm Halliburton and the Dutch companies Heerma Marine Contractors and Smit Tak. The firm Halliburton participated in the operation to recover the bodies of Kursk crew members in the fall of 2000.

No official information about the progress of the talks is available so far, but an executive of a St. Petersburg defense enterprise told our correspondent that Rubin insists on immediate signing of the contract. However, the international consortium is not rushing to sign the document because the Russian government has yet to allocate its $25 million share of financing for the operation. The remaining $55 million is to be raised by the Kursk International Foundation.

Foreign companies are reluctant to sign the contract until they have guarantees of stable financing of the operation. However, if the preparation for the operation is not started within two or three years from now, the project may well never be fulfilled: preparation work will take five months, but already in September, when stormy weather sets in on the Barents Sea, it will be impossible to lift the submarine. Therefore, if the Russian delegation is seriously planning to lift the Kursk from the seabed, it has only several days left to complete the talks by giving the consortium solid guarantees of payment for the planned work. On the other hand, March 11 Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov, the chair of the government commission for the investigation of the Kursk disaster causes, told our correspondent that the contract would be signed in April and the government would eventually allocate the requested $25 million.

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