PRESS CENTER SIGNALLING

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Vycheslav Gudkov, Ivan Safronov Kommersant, September 22, 2001, p. 1

The international press center in Murmansk was opened yesterday only on the second try. It was to be opened on September 13 but the decision to postpone the ceremony was made. Formerly this was because of the terrorist acts in the United States. This actually was because of the postponement of the beginning of the lifting phase in the Barents Sea. This phase will begin on September 27, journalists were told yesterday. The opening ceremony was attended by Presidential Advisor Sergei Yastrzhembsky, Deputy Navy Commander Vice Admiral Mikhail Barskov, Academician Igor Spassky of the Design Bureau Rubin, and Mammoet President Franz van Seumeren. Murmansk Governor Yuri Yevdokimov and Northern Fleet Commander Admiral Vyacheslav Popov were also present.

The number of journalists accredited to cover the Kursk operation already exceeds 1,100. They represent 67 Russian and 147 foreign newspapers, magazines, and TV and radio channels from 30 states. Not all of them attended the opening ceremony yesterday. Many opted to come to Murmansk closer to the lifting phase itself.

In the meantime, the date of the crucial part of the operation was postponed again. According to Spassky, lifting devices from Giant-4 will be fixed to the Kursk 7-8 days after appearance of the barge in the area. The lift itself will then begin. Barskov says that the barge will come to Roslyakovo on October 4 or 5 if weather permitted. Only recently all Russian officials were saying that the submarine would be lifted from the seabed on September 25. Before that, they planned to have the whole operation completed on September 10 or 15.

Separation of the first compartment was talk of the day yesterday. “All technical parameters show that the first compartment has been cut off,” Spassky said. “Pressure in the hydraulic system of the cutters is down, the chain is slack. We insisted, however, that Giant-4 should carry the cutting equipment for whatever might still be connecting the first compartment and the rest of the submarine.” Academician says that the process of lifting is planned in such a manner as to cut off the first compartment entirely at the very beginning if this proves necessary.

Barskov ducked the question of who was going to take responsibility for the emergencies that may crop up. “Talking about who is going to take the blame is not serious,” he said. “I mean, this is a complicated technological operation, the first of its kind in history.”

It turned out yesterday that lifting of the first compartment of the Kursk from the seabed in 2002 was not planned. “It is too expensive,” Spassky explained. “The Rubin will only lift some pieces of equipment so as to discover what caused the initial torpedo explosion.” It means that military prosecutors are not going to get the evidence they need.

Weather reports show that conditions in the area may deteriorate next week. Wind will reach the speed of 12-15 meters a second, and waves will be considerable. Weather is an issue, however, which participants of the operation have little concern. Popov was quoted as saying yesterday that “the decision was made to stiffen security in the Barents Sea in the light of certain developments in the United States.”

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